Caregiver Bournout- part III
When a family member falls ill, the caregiver (whether it is the well spouse, adult child, or parent) goes into crisis mode. Here’s how to recognize it:
Crisis Mode and Caregiver Stress
• constantly suppressing or distracting oneself from negative feelings in order to cope with caregiving, or panicking and becoming non-functional, leaving the work to someone else;
• automatically and continually putting one's own needs aside or on hold;
• dedicating everything one has to helping with the task at hand on a daily basis, even when the tasks are not emergencies;
• not thinking or planning long term, just dealing with what is happening in the moment;
• being constantly on guard for the next time the patient will need the caregiver;
• spending most days hovering around the patient and focusing on his or her every need.
Family Caregivers Can Prevent Burnout by Switching out of Crisis Mode
Though operating in crisis mode is helpful in many situations, living this way over the long term puts caregivers at great risk of burnout and illness. If the goal in the household is achieving the best health possible, that should apply to everyone in the household, not just the patient. Caregivers must protect themselves from burnout to stay healthy.
Caregivers can protect their own health by trying to be tuned in to when there is a crisis and when there is a lull, and to be flexible, shifting from crisis mode to a “new normal” mode of operating when each crisis is over.
Family Caregivers Need Support to Live a Normal Life
Normal operating mode is when one finds oneself:
• taking the time to listen to and process one’s own feelings, either through journal writing, confiding in a friend or counselor, or attending a caregiver support group;
• paying attention to one’s own body and health needs, including exercising, eating right, seeing the doctor as needed, getting enough sleep;
• paying attention to one’s emotional, social, recreational and other needs and making plans to fit them in;
• allowing the patient to accomplish as much as he can by himself, identifying tasks that other people can be enlisted to help with;
• thinking about and planning for how life can still be satisfying;
• planning for future eventualities, putting crisis plans in place.
While caregivers may not be able to do all of these things to the extent they did them before, incorporating even just a few of them can help reduce stress and improve caregiver health and peace in the household
To the family caregiver, it may seem impossible to do these things while their family member is sick and guilt often sets in. However, making oneself sick too really does not help the care recipient.
Accepting a New Normal
For most who are diagnosed with chronic, life-ending illness, things are not going to “go back to normal”. Instead, some resemblance of normalcy has to be established within the new framework of life with chronic illness.
Caregivers Limit Duties Without Feeling Guilty
Realizing that one cannot go it alone is the first step in taking control of a caregiver situation. Re-evaluate the demands of an ailing elderly parent without guilt.
What does it cost to be a caregiver for the family member who is no longer able to manage independently? The answer depends on the duration of care and the extent of work that has to be done. A caregiver also has to give consideration to family obligations – attention to children and spouse – and current employment if she has a job outside the home.
The job of caregiving usually falls to the woman in the home; but male or female, the multiple roles of a caregiver can be as consuming as they are challenging. Caregiving takes a lot of physical, mental, and emotional endurance. In fact, given the scope of planning, skills, and organization involved, the job description for a full-time home caregiver could very well match that of an executive position in a large corporation.
A primary caregiver has to be skilled in many areas. She may act as a personal attendant, financial worker, housekeeper, chauffeur, cook, business advocate, medical worker, social worker, legal affairs advocate, and recreation therapist, just to name a few of the many possible roles.
The Role of Caregiver Becomes Too Demanding?
The work may involve a lot of sacrifices: Giving up a career temporarily, sharing less time with a spouse, missing out on family events, and more. The alternative, many caregivers figure, is worse. The demands and wishes of suffering family member, can come to seem more important than the caregiver's needs. The person who is solely responsible for the care and well-being of another adult can easily become consumed by the job. The primary caregiver who constantly feels stressed, exhausted, feels anxious, and easily loses control may be experiencing the symptoms of caregiver burnout.
Do something about the exhaustion and frustration before it's too late. Making changes and setting limits will allow the caregiver (and other family members in the home) the freedom to enjoy the remaining time the elderly person has left. Getting help means getting control of the situation. Get as much help as possible, as early as possible, and for as long as it is needed.
Neighbors, Friends and Family who are Close by Can Help the Family Caregiver
1. check in on the care recipient if the caregiver is away or worried that something is wrong
2. stay with the care recipient so the caregiver can go to the gym
3. help the caregiver transport the patient to and from doctors appointments
4. visit the care recipient
5. fix whatever is broken in the house, or find someone who will
6. do the laundry or house cleaning
7. be responsible for managing and picking up the prescriptions
8. give the caregiver a ride to wherever she wants to go when she gets time off
If caregivers have an understanding of how their own lives can be made easier, they will be more likely to seek, recognize and accept help. With a job as difficult as caregiving, even small amounts of help here and there can tip the scales between burnout and peace.