Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout
Tools and Tips
As many as 43.5 million Americans care for older parents, grandparents, spouses and other older loved ones.
Some older adults need only a little assistance; for example, help with shoveling snow or rides to and from the grocery store. Others need a lot of help with daily activities like eating, bathing, dressing, taking medications and managing money. Over time, an older adult often needs increasing help from caregivers.
While caring for an older family member can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime, it can also be stressful.This is especially likely if the older adult has dementia or needs around-the-clock care. Most family caregivers are spouses or children.They may have age-related health problems of their own, or they may have small children to care for, or work outside the home, or all of these. Sometimes, providing care for an older person can lead to “caregiver burnout.”
To avoid caregiver burnout, it’s important to get help before caregiving becomes overwhelming. If you’re caring for an older loved one, the American Geriatrics Society Health in Aging Foundation suggests that you:
Get information. It’s likely that an older person you care for has multiple health problems and needs. They may take quite a few medications and have several different healthcare professionals. This can make managing their care more complicated for you as a caregiver. It’s helpful to learn as much as you can about your older loved one’s health problems and how these are likely to change over time.
As a first step in learning more, HealthinAging.org has a wealth of information on health conditions and needs unique to older adults that can help you be a better informed and prepared caregiver.
Help your loved one help himself or herself. Doing something as simple as putting a no-slip seat in the shower or bath; installing “grab bars” in the bathroom and near the bed; moving things to lower shelves; or getting easy-grip can openers and other utensils can make it possible for an older person to keep doing certain things independently.
Ask trustworthy family, friends and neighbors for assistance. Ask family and friends for help, and accept help if it is offered. explain what needs to be done, but try not to criticize if others don’t care for your loved one in exactly the way you would. The important thing is that his or her needs are met.
Take care of yourself, too. Eating well, exercising, and taking time to relax and enjoy yourself are key to avoiding burnout. If you take care of yourself you’ll be able to take better care of others. Also know the warning signs of depression and get help when you need it.
Don’t take it personally If an older person has dementia or other mental or emotional problems, he or she may get angry or say hurtful things. remind yourself that this is because of his or her illness.Try not to take it to heart.
Talk about it Talking about your experiences and feelings can make care giving less stressful. Consider joining a caregiver support group in your area.
Contact professionals and organizations that assist caregivers A wide array of programs, agencies, organizations, and individuals in your community can help you manage the challenges of caring for an older relative. This help may be free, or available at low cost.
The following agencies and people can help you find the help you need:
- Eldercare Locator Visit www.eldercare.gov to search for community services by zip code, city or topic. Or call 800-677-1116 to speak with an Information Specialist.
You can find your local Area Agency on Aging through the Eldercare Locator. Among other things, an Area Agency on Aging caseworker can visit you and your loved one and give you information about different sources for the help you need, how much this help might cost, and how you can get financial assistance.
- Other community Resources Your local United Way and faith-based organizations can also help you find assistance.
- Social workers Social workers at hospitals, clinics, or home health agencies, and specially trained s “geriatric care managers,” can help, too. The Aging Life Care Association can provide more information on geriatrics care managers. (Note: Insurance usually doesn’t cover the cost of geriatric care manager assistance.)
Among other things, these groups and individuals can help you find the following kinds of help:
- Financial – assistance and advice on paying for the services your loved one needs; including assistance completing paper work.
- Transportation – to take your loved one shopping or to and from medical appointments.
- Meals – including help preparing meals or having meals delivered.
- Home nursing services – including visits from Registered Nurses, private duty nurses, nurses aides and hospice.
- Respite care services – which send trained helpers to your loved one’s home so you can take a break.
- Reliable “home helpers” – who can visit your loved one for an hour or two at a time to help with bathing, light housekeeping, cooking, and errands.
- Adult day care – centers where older adults can go for several hours during the day for care supervised by healthcare staff. This care usually includes social programs, recreation and meals. Special adult day care programs are available for people with dementia, depression and social problems.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other healthcare provider. Always consult your healthcare provider about your medications, symptoms, and health problems.
Last Updated March 2013