Being a caretaker is one of the most exhausting, emotional jobs one can have. We go in with the best intentions, hearts full of love, wanting to do the right thing. Suddenly we find ourselves grasping for air, wanting to run in the other direction, and sadly no longer is a smile painted on our faces.
When a loved one is close to you, sometimes this is the hardest of all because of the emotional ties one feels. We tend to have guilt over doing too little, being pulled from our own families, and feelings of wanting to throw in the towel but knowing we cannot.
I have devised ten ways to avoid burnout, and some of these have come to me by trial and error. Some I have applied and some I am working on daily. Nothing is perfect in this world but with any job, we must be equipped with the right tools to succeed. I believe being a caregiver is no different.
1. When taking the job as a caregiver, it is important to set boundaries for yourself and the ones you are caring for. The roles have now reversed. If you are taking care of parents, you are no longer the child but the adult in the situation. Parents may be a bit more demanding, acting like a child in some situations. Know you are not superwoman or man and cannot do everything. Learn to delegate, find help to give you a break, set times that are workable around your own family, letting your loved one know you have other responsibilities.
2. Should you be escorting a loved one to appointments, take an appointment book for you. If you are the one escorting this person then make the appointments that are most convenient for yourself, working around important family dates and outings.
3. I consider myself a spiritual person and rely on my faith many times to get me through. This meaning I pray a lot, voicing my concerns to God. Running to others complaining about this or that really is not productive. If you find yourself doing this, then you may find this is the beginning of feeling burned out. An attitude adjustment is always a good thing. I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to shout to the world, “I am so tired, I can’t do this anymore!”
God is his sweet way always reminds me to look at caring for my loved one as if I was taking care of him. In all things do as if you are doing unto the Lord.
4. One idea I found that has worked for me is bringing some work home with me. In this instance it is not a bad thing. I help my parents with their laundry. They provide the soap and all that I need but I would spend hours at their house washing clothes when all the while I would be thinking about the many things I could be doing at my house. My husband may be off and I really wanted to be home with him. I then had the bright idea of bringing the clothes home with me, doing them at my house. Such a little adjustment but saved so much time on my part.
5. Be careful little mouth what you speak. I can hear these little words so many times as I go about my day. It is amazing when one is positive how it spills over to the ones around you. Speak life into your loved ones, no matter what it may look like. Believe me most do not want to be depending on anyone and this is just as hard on them as on you. Keep a smile and some humor with you at all times.
6. If you are getting so overwhelmed that you are drowning, call some friends, and loved ones to step in and help. This has been the hardest for me in asking for help. I can tell you NO ONE is going to volunteer. I am sorry, we live in a very self-absorbed world. If you do have people beating down your door to help you, count yourself blessed.
7. Get out of the house and I mean now. If the one you are caring for is home bound but is able to leave the house, then by all means get out of the on house. Take a drive, go get an ice cream, feed the ducks, anything is better than one more day of ‘The Price is Right’ — although the show rocks, day after day — we must change the scenery.
8. Journal your journey with your loved ones, in all the good, bad, and ugly. I asked my mom if I could write about her cancer journey and she was thrilled. The day we shaved my mom and dad’s head was a celebration of love. They both loved the pictures and article written for my blog. This also gives others to a chance to offer some words of encouragement.
9. When you are not with your loved ones, spend as much time loving yourself and your own family. Do not try to bring up the downers of being a caregiver every time you are with your own family. Yes, we do need to have them sometimes to listen but we need to step out of the care giver box and leave it alone for a time, building our own relationships.
10. To avoid being resentful there are things you are going to have to let go of. Forgiveness is the most powerful and wonderful tool there is. If you are caring for a loved one, in your tired state, you may reference about times that were not so good. There is no time to harbor old wounds. Let it go so you can be the best person to yourself, the ones you are caring for and your own family.
I truly hope these ten steps in helping you avoid burn out will help you. I try to apply them daily in my walk and sometimes I fall short but as we all walk through this time, we must encourage each other. I promise the seeds we plant today will one day grow within our own lives. Do not grow weary in doing good for it is the one thing that counts for something in this world.