Few things are more stressful than caring for a sick or impaired loved one. Often, family caregivers find themselves in the position of providing care for an older relative. While caring for another is an honorable and heartfelt act of compassion, it can also be difficult. Many caregivers sacrifice their quality of life to meet the needs of another, causing high stress, exhaustion, and health issues of their own.
While each day presents its own unique challenges, here are some tips to help you avoid caregiver burnout while supporting your loved one.
1. Know the Value of Your Work
Often, people tend to associate their value with what they earn. Caregiving, especially for family members, is usually unpaid. While unpaid, caregivers provide an invaluable service to their families. In 2009, the AARP published a report that estimated the services provided by family caregivers were valued at $450 billion a year.
2. Don’t Leave Your Job
Balancing the demands of work and caregiving is a challenge. It’s hard to find the time to take Mom or Dad to doctor’s appointments or use your lunch break to call specialists and pick up prescriptions. In fact, a study found that 81% of caregivers used part of the workday to check on their loved one or arrange care; 70% took off days for caregiving; and 64% arrived to work late or left early to perform caregiving duties.
Some family caregivers feel they have no choice but to leave their day jobs to provide adequate care. Leaving your job might not be the best solution long-term. A study by Metlife Mature Market Group and National Alliance for Caregiving found that women who left the workplace early to provide caregiving at home lost an estimated $324,000 in lost wages, pensions, benefits, and retirement funds.
Companies are beginning to realize that losing a seasoned employee to a family crisis is preventable, and more are starting to give workers more flex time or allow them to work remotely so they can care for an older relative. Another available option is the Medical Leave Act, which gives employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a sick or injured family member.
3. Build a Support Network
Friends and family are a great resource to confide in, but unless they are going through it themselves too, it’s sometimes difficult to talk about the struggles of caregiving. Also, using them to vent can defeat the purpose of unwinding with them and enjoying their company.
A support group is good place to seek encouragement and advice from others in similar situations. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association Westchester, New York Chapter has groups located throughout Dutchess County, Orange County, Putnam County, Rockland County, Sullivan County, Ulster County, and Westchester County. Having a safe, nonjudgmental space to talk about your journey and challenges can help you prepare for what’s ahead and prevent caregiver burnout.
4. Don’t Take Things Personally
Those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can sometimes become agitated, get angry, or say hurtful things. It’s important to remember that they are acting this way because of their illness, and these negative emotions are coming from a place of frustration. Don’t take these moments to heart. Instead, try to diffuse the moment by acknowledging your loved one’s feelings and redirecting the conversation.
5. Look at the Positives
Caregiving is a life-changing and rewarding experience. 75% of family caregivers say that providing care for another is a source of pride, because they know they’re making a difference in their loved one’s life. It’s important to cherish the moments spent with older relatives and loved ones. Remember to live in the moment and take each day as it comes.
6. Caring for Another Takes a Village
Don’t be afraid to get assistance! Some life events shouldn’t be tackled alone, and caregiving requires a team effort. If the person who needs care is an older parent, all siblings need to step up in some way. Often, one sibling emerges at the primary caregiver, and the others let her—as 66% of primary family caregivers are women.
Having a family meeting is often one of the best ways to sort out what needs to be done and how to share caregiving responsibilities. For example, say your brother lives 1,000 miles away, and the responsibility of providing care often falls on you, the closer sibling. To bridge the gap, your brother could hire or pitch in for a professional caregiver so you can get a few hours or an evening to yourself.
If you’re looking to widen your loved one’s care team or need assistance, there are a lot of resources available from the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services. Find caregiver services, case management, the Elder Abuse Helpline, counseling and assistance programs, and more by visiting their website.
Consider Getting a Helping Hand
It’s okay to ask for help. If you are a family caregiver who is starting to feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of providing care, there are professional caregivers who can lend a helping hand. Remember, caring is a team effort, and there’s nothing wrong with having more people in your corner to support you and your loved ones.
If you need time to care for yourself, a professional caregiver can help by providing companionship, transportation, meal preparation, and more to cater to your loved one’s needs. We serve the Westchester, New York area and can give you some peace of mind by letting our family care for your family. To get started, contact us today.