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Health and Fitness News

Caregivers, Take a Break

Caring for a loved one can be exhausting. Here are a few ways to avoid burnout.

A sick child, an aging parent, a spouse with Alzheimer’s—someone has to take care of them and that someone is you. Because you wouldn’t want it any other way. Caring for a loved one is a rewarding responsibility, but it’s never easy. Being on-call 24 hours a day, seeing a loved one in pain, and putting your own needs aside day after day can wear you down. Perhaps friends and family members have offered to help, but you’ve turned them down for whatever reason. Deny their help too long and you may pay the price.
The emotional and physical fatigue of caring for someone is known as caregiver burnout. Signs of burnout include depression, feeling hopeless and helpless, weight gain, sleep troubles, fatigue, and a loss of interest in former relationships and activities.

Take the following steps now to avoid reaching the point of burnout.

Accept Help

While you may have felt strong and able in the beginning, you’re not anymore. And it’s time to admit it. Remember the people who offered assistance? It’s time to take them up on it. Put aside your pride and self-sufficiency and allow others to pitch in. Maybe it’s asking someone to bring a meal, take your loved one to a doctor’s appointment, or pick up groceries for you at the store. Ask other family members or trusted friends to take turns sitting with your loved one so you can get a break. Even getting to walk around the mall alone for an hour or two can do wonders for your mental health.

Increase Independence

When all responsibilities fall on your shoulders, you may become resentful and worn out. Think of ways for your loved one to become more independent. You may need to make your home handicap accessible or rearrange things in the house so they’re easier to reach. Have your loved one wear an emergency alert device that notifies emergency services for help if you can’t be there. Also, install alarms on all outside doors that alert you when the door is opened. Handle bars in the bathroom, a chair in the shower, or a supply of microwave meals can help the elderly maintain even more independence.

Talk about It

One way to help manage stress is by talking about it. Your feelings of frustration, guilt, and anger are normal. Share your feelings with a trusted friend or counselor. Join a support group of other caregivers in your community. You’ll realize you’re not alone and you’ll hear advice and encouragement on how to cope with difficult situations similar to yours.

There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver. - Rosalyn Carter

Do Something for Yourself

You’re used to putting everyone else’s needs above your own, but you’ve got to take care of yourself in order to be emotionally and physically healthy enough to care for someone else. Get regular exercise to relieve stress and stay healthy. Eat nutritious foods for energy. Give yourself a break every now and then to do something you enjoy. Go out with friends, treat yourself to a pedicure or massage, or go shopping. It will all add up to better caregiving for your loved one.

Use Caregiver Services

Never feel like you’ve got to do everything by yourself. Take advantage of programs, organizations, and healthcare professionals who offer assistance to caregivers. Often free or low cost, these services may include running errands, help with bathing, house cleaning, and in-home respite care. Home health aids and nurses may be available to offer short-term medical care and support. Many communities have adult day-care centers to watch elderly or handicapped adults during the day.