5 Ways to Prevent Caregiver Burnout (conclusion)

Let me once again 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. 

Thanks, Brenda!

 

How to Stay Positive While Taking Care of Loved Ones: 5 Ways to Prevent Caregiver Burnout (part two)

 

3.      Set Boundaries and Outline Responsibilities

If you’ve taken the lead in caring for your family member or friend, it can be difficult to cede control. It only grows harder as time goes by. However, you can’t do this on your own. Even delegating tasks to others can wear on you when you’ve been doing it 24/7/365.

Put an end to directing the work—or putting all the burden on your own shoulders—by divvying up all the responsibilities and chores that come with taking care of someone. Between other family members, friends, government and community resources and hired help, you can lighten your own load.

You also need to put boundaries on your own personal time. This might include scheduling a day, a night or a weekend or longer away from your caregiving duties. Remember, you need time to recharge, to take care of yourself and to enjoy your life.

4.      Practice Mindfulness

Taking time for yourself, for recharging and enjoying life, ought to include a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is a calm, intentional focus inward on how you’re feeling. It’s a fantastic way to keep tabs on your own mental health and physical wellness.

It also doesn’t have to be a long and involved ritual. Try sitting down for a few minutes every day when you can be alone in a quiet place. It can be in the bathroom after you brush your teeth or in your bed at night before you go to sleep. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and check in with how you feel. Ask yourself questions: How did the day go? What did you accomplish? What is making you happy? What is making you feel bad? What do you hope will happen tomorrow? What have you done for you? Are you taking care of yourself? Do you feel taken care of?

If any problems crop up, you don’t have to fix them right away. Acknowledging them in the moment is enough. If you’re feeling unwell, make appointments with your own doctors or with others you can depend on to step into the role as caregiver while you regain your health.

5.      Create Your Own Support System

As a caregiver, you’re an essential part of your patient’s support system. Even though you aren’t the one with the chronic illness, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t in need of a support system, too. Yours just might look a little different.

Enlist friends that you can count on to take care of you while you care for your loved one. Having someone to cook you dinner, tidy up your house and take you out to the movies can be exactly what you need to remain positive, no matter what caregiving sends your way.

 

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.

Best regards,
Roger

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5 Ways to Prevent Caregiver Burnout (part one)

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.

Thanks, Brenda!

 

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.

Best regards,
Roger

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More Time to Read and a Different Way to Write

 

I love reading. I always have. I have fond memories of the old Dr. Doolittle books and Ben and Me and oh, so many other great kids books of ages long gone by.

As I entered my teen years, my tastes matured as well, although I don’t recall what I read then other than science fiction. Especially space travel, which at that time seemed like an impossible dream.

Then I ended up majoring in English in college, and I HAD to read so many books that I seldom (if ever) had a chance to read for pleasure anymore. I’ll never forget the course on the 20th Century Novel I took in my very last semester. We studied some pretty weird books, but one of the slightly less weird books really caught my fancy…John Barth’s The Floating Opera.

As it turned out, I moved to Cambridge, Maryland, after college and taught there for six-plus years. And that’s the setting of The Floating Opera. I was fascinated to reread that book and walk down the street from my boarding house and look more closely at the places Barth described so vividly.

Teaching 9th grade English, I got caught up in handling book club orders for my students, and I fell in love with some of the best of teen fiction at the time. Who could ever forget The Pigman or any of the other popular teen books from the late sixties and early seventies? Not all of them were pleasant. Like Go Ask Alice.

michener

Once I got away from teaching, however, I also got away from the teen book influence. James Michener’s novels captivated me. Not just because they were excellent reads, but because he was living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at the time, and that fascinated me.

Especially when my former wife  came home announcing that she’d gone with one of our church members (who did secretarial work for Mr. Michener) took her to his home to meet him. What irony. She wouldn’t have waded through one of his novels to save her life.

For what it’s worth, she did introduce me to Mrs. Michener when she saw and recognized her in a department store one day. Nice, but not the same as meeting him would have been.

After writing my first novel, I discovered how much novels had changed over the years. Those books I’d barely tolerated that last semester of college were pretty typical. Gone were numerous introductory pages (or in Mr. Michener’s case, multiple chapters) of backstory. The author needed to hook the reader in the first paragraph. Preferably in the first sentence.

Modern life is fast-paced, and the contemporary novel must maintain the reader’s interest from start to finish or be thrown away or returned. Although I have an almost complete set of everything James Michener wrote (the picture above is of just some of my collection), even I no longer have the patience to plod through his books again.

I could tell you more, but I think you get the idea.

Not only did I have to learn to write differently than I’d learned to write in college, I learned to read and enjoy a different style of fiction.

And one of the joys of retirement is having the time to read as much as I want to. Not that I ever expect to return to James Michener. Like the man himself, my interest in that kind of reading has died.

Do you read fiction or non-fiction? What’s your favorite book? Do you still remember a favorite childhood book? Please share a comment with the rest of us.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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As Long As Those Fingers Hold Out…

I started learning to play guitar soon after my birthday in September, 1962. I used money I’d been saving for my high school class ring to buy an eighteen dollar Silvertone. I didn’t even know how to tune it, and digital tuners were many years in the future.

With the folk fad in vogue at the time, I focused on learning finger picking. (Although I do strum some songs, I’ve never become comfortable or competent with a pick.) Learning the theory behind some of the basics didn’t take long, but making my fingers cooperate consistently seemed impossible.

As strange as it might sound, John F. Kennedy’s assassination and funeral changed all of that. I was off from school, and nothing but JFK-related programming was on TV, so I had LOTS of time to really polish those finger styles. Although I’ve added a lot to my techniques since then, I count that time as when I really caught on to learning to play.

I do most of my playing now in my church’s nursing home ministry, where accuracy is less important than having a loving attitude. Not that I don’t practice quite a bit for the solo I do each week, but somehow I just don’t feel I still have what I used to have. Occasionally I even cheat and simplify something I’ve been doing a particular way for a number of years.

But what if I reach the point of no longer being nimble enough to play at all?

My mother was a very good pianist, but rheumatoid arthritis silenced her playing several years before her death. I don’t have any symptoms of that disease, but still…I don’t feel like I’m playing as well as I did ten or fifteen years ago.

I didn’t intend for this post to be about me. Not really.

It’s about Carlos Montoya. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Montoya, people considered him the finest flamenco (that’s Spanish gypsy music) guitarist around. He lived from 1903 to 1993.

I went to see him in person while I was in high school—on Saturday, March 23, 1963. “Fabulous” doesn’t begin to describe his playing. Compared to him, I’ve never been a guitar player at all.

MontoyaOldProgram     MontoyaAlbumCover.pg

I saw him again years later—on July 30, 1986—when he was eighty-three. He wasn’t the same guitarist he’d been twenty-three years earlier, but nobody in that audience seemed to care. If anything, listeners were enthralled that he was still playing as well as he was.

MontoyaNewProgram   

Should I ever decline enough in my playing for others to notice, I hope they won’t say, “Oh, he used to be pretty good.” I hope they’ll say, “He never quits trying, does he?”

Do you do something you can’t do as well now as when you were younger?  Please share a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday or whenever I next have something to say. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Healthier Than Thou

Every once in a while, I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. Someone who’s around my age. Someone who really means it when asking, “How are you?”

But we both know what that question really means. “Are you holding together as well as I am or better?”

The funny thing about that is most “people of age”—a designation inspired by “people of color,” which strikes me as equally silly since all of us are SOME color and all of us are SOME age—pass up the opportunity to be honest.

Probably because they don’t want to chance learning that the other person is healthier. Or in terrible shape.

I’m rarely as honest as I could be. I mean, I’m not about to say, “I have a pain that makes walking, standing, and lying down anywhere from uncomfortable to painful at times, and the doctor hasn’t been able to figure out or solve the problem.” Not unless I’m talking to someone I want to urge to move on without further discussion.

I suppose I can honestly say, “Well, I’m able to get eight or nine hours of sleep every night.” No need to add that I normally still feel tired when I get up and nearly always take a short afternoon nap. Sometimes two. Concurrently.

pillBotlesOr should I whip out the list of medications I keep in my wallet? My doctor’s office loves me because that printed list keeps me from having to pronounce the names of my regular medicines and keeps the nurse from having to figure out what I’m trying to say when I mispronounce them.

 

That kind of list-sharing with other people of age would have drawbacks, though. Mine might look pretty puny next to theirs. I wouldn’t want to think my health might not be as good as theirs.

On the other hand, my list might look humongous. If I take more kinds of medicine, does that mean I’m actually healthier? I don’t want to admit it pretty doesn’t.

Maybe “I’m fine, thanks.” is a sufficiently honest response to “How are you?” from another person of equal age.

Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you. Please feel free to leave a comment. What do YOU think about this subject?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Roger's newest novel

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Christmas or Easter?

Non-Christians probably prefer Christmas to Easter. After all, don’t most people like to give and receive gifts? Gifts that often have more value–probably even more lasting value–than chocolate (or real) bunnies and various other candies.

Too many people–through no fault of their own–lack an adequate and correct understanding of the significance of both of those holidays.

Yes, Christmas is a time of giving. No wonder. The Christmas story in the Bible mentions the gifts brought by the so-called wise men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Very precious and expensive gifts. But those gifts were brought to the Christ child, not to Mary and Joseph, and gifts were not given to the wise men in return.

No matter how valuable the wise men’s gifts were, they pale in comparison to God’s giving up part of Himself by uniting with a human woman to create a baby who was both human and divine.

His was a gift of the greatest love imaginable.

God had had established a system of sacrifices based for the atonement of sins–that is, to provide forgiveness and to make things right between the ancient Jews and God. The sacrificial system involved the killing of a Passover lamb.

That lamb had to be perfect. Spotless. No blemishes. As perfect as it could possibly be. If an imperfection was discovered at the last minute, that lamb couldn’t be used. It wouldn’t be acceptable.

That sacrificial system didn’t really accomplish everything God had wanted it to do. So, in giving part of Himself through the birth of Jesus, God Himself became the most perfect sacrificial lamb possible. Perfect because Jesus never committed even the least sin.

If He had sinned, even once, He wouldn’t have been good enough to be sacrificed for the sake of mankind.

Yet if He hadn’t been part human, He wouldn’t have been subject to the temptations that plague each of us daily. If He hadn’t been tempted and had to rely on His Heavenly Father for the strength to resist each and every temptation, His sacrifice would’ve been meaningless. Because God is fully righteous, the only acceptable sacrifice had to be sin-free.

The sacrifice of the Passover lamb necessitated that it be killed. Without the spilling of blood, its death would’ve been worthless.

And so it was with Jesus. If He hadn’t been killed on a Roman cross–His blood was spilled in the process–His sacrifice wouldn’t have been acceptable to God the Father.

But Jesus was the perfect sacrificial lamb, and His death paid the price for the sins each of us is born with simply because we’re descendants of Adam and Eve–not only the first human beings, but the first sinners.

The fact that God brought Jesus back to life and then, after a period of days, brought Him back to Heaven gives Easter a whole new perspective. God forgives our sinful natures because of Jesus’s death, but–without a relationship with God through faith in Jesus–God would not consider any of us righteous or worthy of both eternal life in Heaven and a more meaningful life here on earth.

Christmas or Easter? What do you think?

If Jesus hadn’t been born a true miracle baby, Easter would have no significance. So Christmas is definitely something to celebrate.

But Christmas was just the necessary beginning of the story. Easter is the rest of the story.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

P.S. Pictured below is my latest novel. The Kindle version is free today only at Amazon. Go here to get your copy.

Roger's newest novel

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Can You Judge a Book by its Cover?

What do you think? Can you–or anyone else–actually judge a book fairly by its cover?

I think a more reasonable question is whether any of us can fail to let a book cover affect our decision to at least look at the back cover copy and possibly open the book and read the first few paragraphs.

Yes, there are exceptions. A hideously covered book may have been recommended to us by someone whose opinion we find to usually be in line with our own. Or the cover on the new book by our favorite author may be what we consider awful. In cases like those, our eyes may not see the front cover as a stop sign. And I don’t recall seeing Bibles with covers that would draw readers in; those covers tend to be pretty plain.

I doubt that any publisher fails to at least ask an author for recommendations about the cover. Sometimes the author’s contract specifically prevents the publisher from using a cover he or she disapproves of.

I’ve learned a lot about book covers during the years I’ve been writing, seeing my novels published, and now publishing novels myself. Gone is my opinion that a good cover must show at least a hint of one of the scenes from the book. And gone is my naive opinion that what looks good to my wife and me will automatically be equally attractive to other people.

At a marketing class for fiction writers some years ago, one of the teachers, a well-known literary agent, told the tale of a book by popular young adult novelist Jenny B. Jones. The cover depicted a cow–a black and white cow, if I recall correctly–with a tiara on her head. Hilarious, right? Adults, the agent/teacher said, thought it was hilarious. And wonderful.

Unfortunately, teens–the intended buyers and readers of Jenny’s book–thought the cover was horrible.

Ah, so teens and adults have different tastes? Why should that be so surprising!

When I self-published the quirky teen romance, Project Muffintop, I thought this cover would be perfect.

I spent the better part of a day taking pictures. At first my wife and I tried baking muffins in the tight jeans muffin mold I’d ordered from China, but we couldn’t get a muffin top to form quite correctly, and I ended up cutting the top off a store-bought muffin and sticking it on top of the muffin mold.

I published the book with that cover, but apparently nobody gave it a second glance. Ultimately, I had to admit it just wasn’t appropriate or professional looking.

So I found a stock photo I could use part of on top of what I’d used originally. It looked like this, and I thought it looked more appealing. Fun. Surely it would at least make a potential teen buyer take a second look.

I made the fortunate mistake–that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?–of asking the opinion of an online group of readers. By and large, they didn’t care for either that cover OR the original. Not only that, they objected to the title. Strenuously.

Hmm. Back to the drawing board. But first I unpublished Project Muffintop. I didn’t want anyone else to see and be turned off by the original cover. (Fortunately, I never used the intended replacement cover.)

The relationship between the male and female protagonists was more important in the story than her diet, and I believe God inspired me to re-title Project Muffintop as Just Friends?–yes, the question mark is part of the title.

After numerous revisions, this is the current–and, I hope and pray, the final–version of the cover. It doesn’t portray a scene from the book or necessarily portray the protagonists accurately, but it gives the potential reader something to connect to emotionally and hints at the fact that there’s a question about the relationship between the two teens.

 

What’s your experience with book covers?  What’s your opinion about their importance? A comment would be welcome–and quite possibly helpful.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

P.S. Do you recall the original cover for The Devil and Pastor Gus, the one with a stereotypical devil at the upper right-hand cover? Or its replacement, the one with the church? When I got the rights to Pastor Gus back, I wanted something totally different, and this is it below.

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