Caregivers are only human, and yet, they are often so passionate about the work that they believe they should be “superhuman.” That is to say, caregivers don’t believe they should get tired or emotionally drained from the work. Caregivers believe that taking time for themselves subtracts from their commitment to the senior in their care. Nothing could be further from the truth and the New Year is a good time to recalibrate self-directed attitudes.
Caregiving Issue Number One
It is common for caregivers to experience “compassion fatigue.”
Symptoms include a sense of hopelessness, stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, and a persistent negative attitude. Another term used to describe this state is “caregiver burnout.”
New Habit Number One
When experiencing any of these symptoms, it is time to take a step back and assess the impact that caregiving is having on the caregiver’s life. There are many options available to give the caregiver a break including asking other family members to step in, checking with insurance for covered caregiving services, and respite care.
Caregiving Issue Number Two
Caregivers may begin to suffer from what is commonly known as “caregiver burden”. This is when caregivers become more physically, emotionally and mentally sick than the person they’re caring for. It includes negative impacts on physical and mental health like more frequent episodes of anxiety and depression, divorce and job loss.
New Habit Number Two
Retool the thinking about caregiving. Set boundaries and realize that a healthy caregiver can do an excellent job, but a sick caregiver cannot. Paying attention to one’s own physical and mental needs is investing in one’s ability to succeed as a caregiver.
Caregiving Issue Number Three
Burnout can make important caregiving duties feel like demeaning housekeeping duties. After a while, the necessity of changing beds, and perhaps bed pans, taking out the garbage, cleaning the bathroom and doing the dishes become exhausting. A caregiver can easily feel diminished and that s/he has been relegated to doing all the “dirty work”.
New Habit Number Three
Now is the time to protect a positive, meaningful relationship with the senior being cared for, and sometimes that means taking a break. One needs to maintain perspective while caregiving. Focus on the relationship with the loved one; s/he may require a lot of care now, but someday will be gone.
It is important for caregivers to invest in themselves, thereby investing in their work and 2016 is a good time to start.