Self-care is easily overlooked as a caregiver. Especially if you are caring for a family member with an extended illness or chronic disease. November is National Family Caregivers Month and Mary-Ann Brown, Director of Palliative Care & Clinical Ethics at Renown Health, explains why it’s important for caregivers to also take care of themselves.
Caregiver Burnout – Do you have it?
Sure we all feel exhausted at times, but how can you tell if your fatigue is reaching a tipping point? Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, it creeps up on you over time. “Caregivers give selflessly of their time to their loved ones but it’s important to take time for yourself too,” says Brown. “Moments spent on self-care are rewarded with more energy and positivity.”
Psychology Today defines burnout as a state of chronic stress leading to:
- Being physically and emotionally tired
- Feelings of detachment and pessimism
- Regular frustrating thoughts
Scheduled downtime and breaks with family, friends and community resources pitching in, can help.
Related: 10 Tips All Caregivers Need to Know
Everyday Self-Care for a Caregiver
While it’s nice to have a vacation, or a long break to relax, it’s not always possible with day-to-day caregiving demands. Instead, try taking mini-breaks throughout your day to refresh yourself such as:
- Take a 10 minute walk in nature. Not only will you increase your blood flow, being outside will also improve your mood.
- Talk to a positive friend or loved one face-to-face. Ditch the emails and text, instead try connecting in person. Communication research finds your brain ‘mirrors’ the actions of others. For example, seeing someone yawn can make you yawn. And the same goes with positive emotions like smiling and laughter.
- Focus on daily joys. Whether it is noticing the feel of sunshine on your skin or the smell of your coffee, engage your senses to notice the small delights in your day.
Have a care plan.
Plan for both your needs and those of your loved one. Figure out who can pitch in to help. “Planning for the end of our life is a gift we give to our loved ones. Completing an advance directive not only allows a person to state what is important to them at the end of life, but it can also remove the some of the burden of decision making from family,” advises Brown.
Renown Health offers advance directive workshops for making end-of-life care decisions. During this workshop you will:
- Learn how to fill out an advance directive document
- Receive one-on-one help in completing your document
- Have a notary sign your document
To RSVP, call 775-982-7787 or visit renown.org/events for a calendar of future workshops.
Involve your entire family.
First, schedule a family caregiver meeting for nearby and out-of-town relatives. Second, explain to them you need scheduled time away from caring for your mutual family member.
There are several helpful online tools such as Lotsa Helping Hands or CareCalendar. In particular, they allow you to coordinate tasks and meals by inviting others to sign up to help. You can also get regular updates on how a loved one is doing.
Research outside help.
Being a caregiver is challenging. The Family Caregiver Alliance urges caregivers to let go of guilt and seek support for day-to-day responsibilities.