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Caregiver Overload: How to Avoid Bursting Into Flames

Are you aware enough to recognize when you are experiencing caregiver overload? You may be fighting the fires of crisis after crisis in caregiving and yet not recognize when your own burnout is occurring. Some signs of burnout include: trouble sleeping, often feeling teary, an unusual amount of marital discourse, not feeling sociable with family and friends, depression, guilt, anxiety, anger, physical problems of your own surfacing, fatigue, and having to change your employment hours due to caregiving needs.

flame 1Being present and connected is necessary each day for yourself and for others. It isn’t always easy being present as a caregiver because there are so many things to worry about, especially when you are raising your children and taking care of aging parents. However, caregiver burnout is a very real issue, and it can easily happen to anyone.

Strategies to Reduce Overload include:

  • If you are unsure what you need and where to begin, you can hire a Case Manager to come in and conduct an assessment of your caregiving situation. However, you want an assessment that focuses on you in addition to the person you are caring for. From there, a plan of care can be developed with action items to get your caregiving on track.
  • Set limits! Recognize what you can and cannot do in your caregiving role. Make compromises and adjust your expectations, and be willing to ask for help.
  • Work with the care receiver. Your parent or spouse should be part of the process. Talk to them about their wishes without controlling them. Work with your loved one to develop a list of questions for the doctor prior to an appointment.
  • Host family meetings to discuss problems large and small as well as future needs. Planning ahead will avert some crisis. Treat these like business meetings with an agenda contributed by family members ahead of time so that everyone’s concerns are addressed.
  • Recognizing denial is a tough one, as there are things we just don’t want to face as our parents or loved ones age. Someone from outside your family will often be better able to recognize problems and ways to fix or manage them. For example, someone with early stages of dementia is able to often hide the signs from other family members particularly if the person doesn’t live with a family member. We may want to think that our parent is handling things better than they are and therefore delay care they may really need due to our own coping strategies.
  • Take time each day to unplug. Reconnect with yourself and your needs. It can be 10 minutes to meditate, have a cup of tea in front of a fireplace, or sit on the porch enjoying the outdoors. Maybe it’s reading a book for 30 minutes, taking a warm bath, or going on a walk with your spouse.

Lisa Huening

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