Tips for preventing caregiver burnout starts with understanding that from the first day you start to be a family caregiver to the time of your family member’s passing, you will experience a wide range of emotions, physical and emotional exhaustion and changes in many of the relationships you presently enjoy.
What are the warning signs of caregiver burnout?
Increased and excessive stress and tension in the body
Overwhelming feeling of hopelessness or depression
Ongoing feelings of anxiety, anger or even guilt
Easily irritated or angered with care recipient
Lack of ability to find joy or satisfaction with life
Feeling socially isolated
Experiencing frequent relationship conflicts
Experiencing more sickness and need for health care services
Need to medicate with drugs or alcohol to get through the day
Caregiver statistics are alarming. It is important that as a family caregiver, you learn to protect yourself. This is not easy as your days are demanding , but these simple strategies can help you avoid the pitfalls of chronic caregiver stress.
Schedule 5 to 10 minute workouts throughout the day. Your days are demanding and many complain they do not have time to do even a 30 minute or hour long workout. The good news is that studies show that even 5 or 10 minutes workout can make a difference. So, take time and stretch, walk or even dance to your favorite music. Park your car further away a walk a little longer in a parking lot, or take the stairs a flight or 2 instead of the elevator. Exercise not only relieves stress, it is a great dementia prevention strategy.
Take time to find humor throughout the day. Humor and laughter is an antidote for stress, boredom and sadness. Find humor in the little absurdities in life. Surround yourself with laughter everyday. Rent a comedy, read the comics, watch silly you tube videos of animals. Your laughter will be infectious and will help others be in a good mood as well.
Take time to play and socialize everyday. This does not take money or even a large block of time. In the early stages of dementia, your family member with dementia would also benefit from playing a board game, cards, taking short walks, playing with your pet or a Wii game or a brain fitness program. . A dose of fun is good medicine.
Try something new and different. Caregiving is so challenging. Something new and different not only develops cognitive reserve for dementia prevention, it reduces harmful stress. It may be trying a new exercise video, learn a new language, take up a new hobby, or even brain fitness exercises. A few minutes everyday can help prevent caregiver burnout.
Learn to ask for help. This is so hard for many caregivers, as they expect family members and friends to offer help or even know what they need. Many caregivers find disappointment in other family members and look to online support groups such as the one associated with this site. Scheduling respite care and making time for breaks, can help you find more satisfaction during your caregiving journey. Seeking professional help when you start to feel the signs of caregiver burnout will help you survive this emotionally charged experience.