Being a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is an arduous task.
While sometimes taking care of your loved one may make you feel fulfilled and energized because you’re providing them with much-needed love and comfort, other times it can be overwhelming for the caregiver and manifest itself through fatigue, stress, anxiety, or depression. In the caregiving community, we refer to this as “caregiver burnout.” This burnt out exhausted feeling is a common occurrence in many caregiver’s daily lives and it’s best to stay on top of your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing so you can provide the best care possible for the health of your loved one.
Looking for strategies to help prevent caregiver burnout? We’ve compiled our top seven tips below:
- Write It Down- Have you ever felt blue, but can’t trace the source of your feelings? Or maybe you’ve been exasperatedly frustrated, with no outlet to vent? Journaling has been found to have great effects on mental and emotional wellbeing. The act of writing down your thoughts forces your brain to process your feelings and frustrations as you articulate them on paper. Often times, the journaling process is a form of relief, as seeing your problems laid out on paper can make them feel manageable or even insignificant in the long run. When you’re journaling, don’t worry about grammar or punctuation or even writing complete sentences. Begin your entry with the simple words “Today I feel…” and let the pen flow.
- Allow Yourself to Feel Negative Emotions- Not every day of caregiving is going to be a walk in the park. While many caregivers expect their presence to always have a positive impact on their loved one’s health, that simply cannot be the case every day. And when your loved one has a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you must recognize this is an unrealistic expectation. Instead of bottling up your feelings of anger, stress, or resentment, which exacerbates caregiver burnout, let them out and learn to channel your negative feelings in a healthy way.
- Know Your Limits- You’re not superman. You can’t possibly do it all perfectly every day. By giving yourself a reality check every now and again you remind yourself it’s okay to experience setbacks or feel exhausted from your duties. Don’t think that just because you’re busy caring for someone else means you can’t set aside time for yourself. Even if it’s as little as an hour, a half hour, or 15 minutes, allow yourself personal time to de-stress. A simple stress-reducing exercise like deep breathing or meditation takes no time at all and can have a positive impact on your mental health that’ll last the rest of the day.
- Look For Patterns- What is it in your caregiving role that induces your stress, anxiety, or depression? Is there something particular that happens daily to set off your negative feelings? Knowing what triggers your caregiver burnout feelings provides you with useful information to help prevent them from happening again in the future. When you establish was induces your caregiver burnout feelings, you can prepare for—or even avoid—them from occurring again.
- Read a Book- There are a number of great caregiver books we recommend in our support groups to help caregivers along the caregiving journey. These books provide much-needed advice on how to keep caregiving fresh, manageable, and rewarding. Some recommended titles include: The Caregiver’s Journey, Building Your Care Team, Understanding Alzheimer’s:A First Time Caregiver’s Plan, Help is Here: When Someone You Love has Dementia, 36 Hour Day, Color Your Mind, Activities to Do with Your Parent Who has Alzheimer’s Dementia, Creating Moments of Joy and 5 Wishes. Check out our Alzheimer & Dementia Resource Articles or find a library near you that offers resources for dementia caregivers.
- Take Advantage of Respite Care- Respite allows caregivers to take a break from their caregiving duties by hiring a trained professional to take over their caregiving duties for a temporary period of time. This reprieve affords caregivers much needed “me time” to focus on personal affairs like social activities, attending appointments, or travel. Contact our Respite Program Coordinator at 518-832-4993 if you are in need of a break from your caregiving duties.
- Join a Caregiver Support Group– Caregiver Support groups provide emotional support, information, resources and a platform for caregivers to share strategies and lessons learned with other caregivers. At Caregiver Support, we offer a variety of free, in-person and tele-support groups throughout Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Warren and Washington Counties. For more information, visit our support group homepage or call our Caregiver Telephone Support Line at 1-800-388-0199.