One of the most important issues that we as caregivers overlook is our own self-care. We tend to burn the candle at both ends and put ourselves last on the priority list. Some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout are feeling fatigued, getting sick more often, withdrawing from friends and loved ones, and being more accident-prone.
There are many ways to prevent caregiver burnout. Here are just a few examples:
- Use technology whenever possible. There are many products available that can alleviate some of the stressors that caregivers face. For instance, emergency alert pendants are great for those who are fall risks. Security systems can be installed that do everything for you except cook dinner. You can be alerted when doors are opened or locks aren’t locked. You can install webcams to check in when you can’t physically be there. Even simple timers and reminders can make appointments and tasks easier to remember. The ideas keep coming and new products are being developed right now.
- Use their doctor’s appointments to your benefit. This sounds strange, but I often looked forward to visiting the doctor with my Dad. I could ask questions about his health and then relate them to me. For instance, when my father had surgery to unblock his Carotid Artery, I found out that since I had never smoked, I probably didn’t have to be as concerned for my health on that issue.
Also, when my father asked questions like, can I get my driver’s license back, I would give a pleading look to my doctor to reinforce a “No” or at least a “Not Yet”. Instead of dreading them, I actually started looking forward to them just for my own benefit.
- Use bonding activities. Listen to music together. Paint or color pictures. Find old photographs and ask your loved ones if they recognize the people you may not know. This will spark memories and they may tell you stories of their childhood. Let them help you with a chore like cooking dinner or making a minor repair. This will make them feel valued as well as busy. Think of anything they may find fun to do, perhaps checkers or magazine collages would keep them entertained. This will serve as a way for you to have fun with your loved one and find out things you may not have know about them.
Find the humor. This may not seem appropriate to some; however, this is a very important tip! When my father was in the hospital for three weeks, I found humor in an incident almost daily—once he was out of the Critical Care Unit (CCU), of course. There were many words that came out of my father’s mouth that easily could have been part of a Jay Leno monologue. Just the other day one of my dad’s friends called me and congratulated me on getting married. He said he thought I was already married. I said that I was in my 6th year of marriage. Apparently, my dad told him that I had just gotten married and was on my honeymoon. Not sure where that came from, but every day it’s something different!