How to avoid caregiver burnout

Lifestyle

As the number of older Americans continues to increase, so does the need for caregivers. While most caregivers willingly and lovingly step up to the plate when a loved one is facing a chronic disease or condition, that doesn't mean it's easy.

Over time, caregiving can both physically and emotionally wear down even the strongest of people. "Few responsibilities are as stressful as caregiving," says Stan Goldberg, Ph.D., author of Loving, Supporting, and Caring for the Cancer Patient (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) in an interview conducted by Athene. "It can become a zero-sum game, where only one person gets his or her needs met," says Goldberg. While selflessness feels right at first, consistently ignoring your own needs can leave you overwhelmed — and possibly ill yourself.

If you are a caregiver for a loved one, these tips can keep burnout at bay and ease some of the challenges you're facing.

Take regular breaks.
Time away from caregiving duties helps you refresh your mind. Go for walks, make a coffee date with a friend or spend time with children and grandchildren. Inside your own home, create a space that's just yours, such as a spare room for reading or sleeping.

Do what you love.
It may feel as though you should give up things you enjoy, but that's a recipe for resentment down the line. Remain in your book club, keep going to your yoga class or tend your garden. No matter the activity, it's important to be able to turn to the same diversions you've always loved, even if you occasionally have to alter your schedule.

Try meditation.
As little as 15 minutes a day of quiet reflection and breathing can recharge your batteries to focus on the day's responsibilities.

Join a local support group.
A good place to start could be the website for the condition that your loved one has, such as the Alzheimer's Association, for example. Sympathetic friends and family may not be walking in the same shoes as you. People who are in the same boat may be better able to empathize and relate, as well as brainstorm solutions to the issues you face.

Line up resources.
Consider paid help, such as a private companion, or seek volunteers through your faith community or a network of friends and family. A couple of hours a week can give you time to run your own errands, go to the gym or take a nap.

Educate yourself.
Learning as much as you can about what might happen as time goes on with a loved one’s  chronic disease or condition can also help you respond and cope more effectively.

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