Keeping Burnout at Bay

February 25, 2014
Caregivers at home and their loved ones can use help from others.

Home caregivers and their loved ones can use help from others.

Now that the holidays are over, most people take a big breath and get back into more relaxed routines. For caregivers at home, that’s not always the case. For many, the demands of caregiving continue at a high level – and if that level is too high, even the best caregiver can be in danger of burnout.

Asking for help is important

It’s vital that caregivers realize that no one person can do everything alone. Even Superman gets help from other superheroes occasionally, and George Washington didn’t win America’s freedom singlehandedly!

A caregiver who can find someone to provide some form of relief or assistance may be able to prevent burnout. Ideally, a person in a situation in which the caregiving demands are onerous has someone who can share the burden on a more or less equal footing; however, often that is simply not the case.

In such situations, caregivers may have to think outside the box for ways that others can help to relieve the burden.

A few possible solutions include:

  • Look for partial coverage. If it’s unlikely that a relative or friend can split duties on a half-and-half basis, see if such ones may be able to help in smaller ways. Getting someone to take charge for one afternoon a week, or one hour every two days, can give a caregiver valuable alone time to recharge and take care of personal matters.
  • Don’t concentrate on finding someone to share the actual caring. Your loved one may require very special care that only you can give; however, just about anyone can take a shopping list and pick up groceries, do a load of laundry, or take your daughter to her girl scout meeting.
  • Establish an ongoing check-in. Have a friend or relative phone you on a regular basis. Set a day and time for the call; make it as often as you need. Use this call for whatever needs you have. You may just want to have fifteen minutes to vent about what has been going on or to talk about something that doesn’t involve your caregiving chores at all. You can also use this time to brainstorm solutions to problems or to give the caller a list of tasks that he or she can help accomplish. Make sure this is a phone call (or even better, a personal visit) rather than an email; the personal, one-on-one voice communication will make you feel better and more connected.
  • Remember your neighbors. Don’t be afraid to see if someone in the neighborhood can help out with small chores. You never know until you ask.
  • Extend the family. If your brother and sister are unable to help, what about their children? Are there cousins who could drop by once in a while?
  • Think about your friends’ and relatives’ skill sets. Asking someone for general help may not elicit the desired response; however, calling your cousin who is an expert gardener and asking him to oversee Grandfather’s planting activities or asking your niece who is so quick with the needle to hem Nana’s dresses may bring about better results.

Home caregivers deserve all the help they can get – so don’t be afraid to ask for it. Both you and your loved one will bebenefit.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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