Caregivers Must Remember to Care for Themselves, Continued

In our last post, we looked at the problem of caregiver burnout and how to tell if you may be approaching burnout. Now let’s look at how to care for yourself and your loved one.

First, you must understand that what you are feeling is not unusual. Caregiver burnout is much more common than you might think. This should come as no surprise given the number of Americans serving as caregivers and the amount of time and energy required to provide adequate care.

Here are some steps you can take if you believe you might be suffering from caregiver burnout.

  • Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s illness and how to care for it. The more you know, the more effective you’ll be and the better you’ll feel about your efforts.
  • Recognize your limits. This involves taking a more realistic approach to how much time and effort you can give your loved one. Then, be sure to express those limits to doctors and other family members.
  • Learn to accept how you feel about the responsibilities of being a caregiver. Anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, grief… all of these emotions and more are commonly experienced by caregivers.
  • Talk to people about your feelings. Keeping your emotions bottled up doesn’t do you or the person you are caring for any good. Confiding in friends and family members can provide a sense of relief and help you overcome feelings of isolation.

This last step is extremely important. Remember—you are not alone. Support is available from people who understand what you are going through and can help you cope with the stress involved. You must do whatever it takes to avoid a sense of isolation. You’ll find support groups within the community online, in the phone book, through your physician, and from organizations associated with the health problem of the loved one under your care. Your local chapter of AARP, and agencies such as Family Caregiver Alliance, are good places to start.

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