Paid or volunteer caregivers who are depressed, anxious, or exhausted will not be able to take good care of their loved ones. These tips will help you avoid burning out as a caregiver.
As the population ages, more family members are providing caregiver help – and not all can afford to hire a paid caregiver. Taking care of an ill family member or loved one can lead to depression, anxiety, and other emotional health issues.
“It’s estimated that 10 million people are providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease in America,” says Ron Kauffman, author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease. Being a caregiver – whether that means an occasional visit or providing full-time caregiving help – requires patience and sacrifice.
“Being a caregiver for a spouse or family member is all about providing a safe, loving environment,” says Kauffman. You can’t do that unless you take care of your own needs.
These four tips for emotional health can help stop caregiver depression and decrease caregiver stress. They apply to both paid and volunteer caregivers.
Be Aware of Your Limits as a Caregiver
If you’re taking care of a loved one or family member, you may not be trained as a caregiver. The responsibilities and duties of caregiving can be overwhelming – even for paid caregivers!
If you’re helping an ill loved one, you have to accept the situation and your personality traits and lifestyle for what they are. Part of this acceptance is accepting that you can only do so much to help.
Get Support From Family, Friends, or Paid Caregivers
Establish a family support plan to share the load – don’t plan to take care of your loved one all by yourself. If family members can’t help and you can’t afford to hire a paid caregiver, look for community groups that offer volunteers. If you feel like you’re burning out — whether you’re a paid or volunteer caregiver — join a caregiving support group.
If you’re a paid caregiver who is noticing signs of depression in yourself or a coworker, talk to your supervisor. Find out what you can do to stop caregiver depression before it gets worse.
Take Care of Your Physical and Emotional Health Needs
Are you an introvert who needs a lot of time alone to recharge your batteries? Make sure you give yourself the time and space you need. Caregivers need to guard their personal time, and learn how much time and energy they can give before they start feeling fatigued.
Caregivers need to take care of their physical health by eating properly, exercising, and getting sufficient rest. They need to take care of their emotional health by finding time for their hobbies, socializing with friends, and finding healthy ways to express their feelings (which may included normal bouts of depression, anxiety, and grief).
Caring for an ill loved one takes a great deal of energy; avoiding caregiver burnout involves replenishing energy in different ways.
Pay Attention to Signs of Depression and Anxiety
The more you know about the causes and signs of caregiver depression, the better able you’ll be to take care of yourself. Stay connected to your feelings, including your changes in attitude toward your caregiving duties. Emotions and attitudes can be early warning signs of caregiver depression.
Both paid and volunteer caregivers need to know how to say no without feeling guilty. They have to set and maintain healthy boundaries to protect their emotional health – even when it seems easier to say “yes” to all the requests people make!
For more caregiving tips, read How to Help Elderly Parents Who Don’t Want Help.
Are you caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease? Read The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss.
Source: Email interview with Ron Kauffman, author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me! Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.