Let me welcome guest post writer Brenda Kimble. She is a writer and caregiver based in Austin, TX. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging to support local causes and connecting with others in her field. Outside of her work, Brenda loves doing yoga, completing new DIY projects around her home, as well as spending time with her husband and three children.
The final part of this article will appear next week.
How to Stay Positive While Taking Care of Loved Ones: 5 Ways to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
When a loved one is sick, we drop everything to play nurse. We cook, we clean, we coddle. We do everything we can to ensure that they’re taken care of, regardless of our other responsibilities and even our own well-being.
But what happens when that loved one isn’t suffering from the flu or a stomach bug? What happens when that loved one doesn’t have a broken leg or a migraine? What happens when that loved one has a chronic illness and our role as nurse-cook-housekeeper-therapist is never-ending?
There’s a name for what happens: caregiver burnout.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
The exhaustion you’re feeling, the despair, the anger, the hopelessness—all these emotions are symptoms of caregiver burnout. That’s the clinical term for a state commonly experienced by many long-term caregivers, which is also called compassion fatigue. It happens when we do more caregiving work than we’re reasonably able to for an extended period of time.
It’s possible for burnout to spiral into depression, which can manifest in reckless, neglectful or abusive behavior. In addition to harming the caregiver, compassion fatigue can also hurt the patient. That’s why it’s essential to maintain positivity in your life and to manage the stress that accompanies caregiving.
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
The key to staying positive, preserving your sense of self, and continuing to effectively care for your chronically ill loved one is to counteract the different causes of compassion fatigue. You know what they say: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Here are Five Ways to Be a Better, Happier, Healthier Caregiver:
1. Separate the Different Roles You Play
One of the largest factors in triggering caregiver fatigue is that you might blur the lines between your role as a caregiver and your role as a spouse (or a daughter or a mother or a friend—whichever relationship to your patient suits your circumstances). You went into caregiving giving it your all and ignored your own needs to fulfill the other relationship you had with your loved ones.
It’s never too late to re-establish these two distinct roles. It’s not selfish to require that a portion of your interactions with your loved one is as a significant other rather than as a nurse. This will require a serious conversation that focuses on how you’re feeling and what you need. It might be helpful to schedule dates during which you aren’t the caregiver.
2. Recalibrate Your Expectations
It’s nice to be thanked for the work you do. In most situations, after all, we expect gratitude. With 24/7 caregiving, though, often the thank yous go unsaid. This is especially true when your loved one is struggling with debilitating or degrading symptoms, including mental health problems like depression, which are common in those with chronic illnesses.
The truth is that positivity is often hard to come by. Often, that’s the reality of chronic and progressive diseases. While it’s fair to ask for a few words of thanks, it’s unrealistic to expect it. Rather than noticing when the gratitude is missing from your patient’s words or actions, try to correct your thoughts. Think of your caregiving work as a task rather than a favor.
Read the rest of this informative article next Sunday. Thanks again to Brenda for her willingness to share with us on this blog.
As always, your comments are welcome.
I’ll be back again next Sunday. Actually, Brenda will. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.
Links you might be interested in:
- Roger’s other blog, As I Come Singing
- Roger’s website, RogerBruner.com
- Roger’s free Christian lead sheets
- Roger’s books on Amazon