• Hospice CareAs a caregiver for my late grandpa who passed away in 2013, I know how much the stress of caregiving can affect your mental health.

    Eventually, caregiver stress can lead to caregiver burnout.

    You may not be aware of this, but:

    Studies consistently show that up to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression.

    Did you know that depressed caregivers are more likely to have coexisting anxiety disorders, substance abuse or dependence, and chronic diseases?

    Caregiving can also result in feeling a loss of self-identity, lower levels of self-esteem, constant worry, and feelings of uncertainty.

    If it sounds like you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, below are 10 tips for confronting caregiver burnout that you can use today to de-stress!

    All it takes is just a few minutes of your time and you’ll be well on your way to take the bull by its horns.

    1. Jump Start Your Recovery Through Acceptance

    As cliché as it sounds, the first step towards getting better and improving your emotional state of mind is admitting that you have a problem.

    It’s not going to be easy.

    As a senior in high school, I had my eyes set on going to college and enjoying time with my friends before graduating. However, life had other plans.

    End of Life CareMy grandpa was diagnosed with thyroid and colon cancer. A combination of old age, chemotherapy, and medications made him weak—he suffered from his first fall that year.

    I remember rushing to the hospital that day with the rest of my family and feeling angry.

    I had plans to go out with friends and now I’m stuck at the hospital.

    So many different thoughts were rushing through my head:

    I’m always helping my grandpa with everything at home!

    I’m always going to doctor appointments with him so that I can translate everything from English to Korean.

    I’m always missing out on fun things with my friends.

    It’s not fair that I have to deal with this!

    Immediately after these thoughts, I felt immense guilt. How could I possibly think that about my own needs when my grandpa is lying on a hospital bed right now?

    You might be angry at your loved one just like I was, and it’s important to know that it is completely normal for you to feel that way.

    At that point in my caregiving journey, I was depressed, anxious, and in denial.

    I kept pushing things to the side and thought that everything will eventually work itself out.

    Can you guess what happened next?

    Everything got worse before it could get any better.

    Stop thinking about the things you can’t change.

    Start thinking about the things you can change.

    “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” ― J.K. Rowling, Author

    It’s easy to focus your thoughts on something like the inevitability of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Try doing this instead:

    Think about how to make the most out of the time you spend with your loved one.

    Acceptance allows you to take a look at things from another perspective while acknowledging your own thoughts and feelings.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Improves Your Self-Awareness Skills

    Caregiver burnout can cause you to neglect your own needs either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore.

    Do you feel that your life only consists of caregiving?

    Are you getting increasingly frustrated with your loved one?

    Most importantly:

    How can you effectively take care of your loved one if you’re not at your best?

    Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can help change your behaviors and way of thinking. A therapist works with you during sessions to develop coping strategies for when you’re distressed over the course of several weeks.

    I will discuss some of these coping strategies later on, but here is how you can get started right now:

    Find a Therapist Near You

    Visit a website like Psychology Today to search professional listings for therapists using your city or zip code.

    Filter Your Results

    You can find therapists that specialize in a variety of issues such as depression, anxiety, and family conflict.

    Schedule Your First Appointment

    All it takes is just a quick phone call. If you have any questions about insurance, now is the time to ask. Some therapists may even offer flexible pricing based on a sliding scale.

    Did you notice how easy that was?

    If you took on the monumental first step of accepting your thoughts and feelings, reaching out to a therapist for professional help is going to be a walk in the park.

    Lastly:

    Give yourself a pat on the back!

    Seriously, just take a second to understand how far you’ve already come. Not only did you come to terms with all the things you can’t change, you’re making a conscious effort to make long-lasting positive changes to your life.

    For more information on cognitive behavioral theory, you can click here.

    3. Start Exploring New Creative Outlets to Combat Anxiety and Depression

    When you’re faced with caregiver burnout, it’s not uncommon for you to fall out of touch with your favorite hobby. Loss of interest and motivation in activities you once loved is a symptom of depression.

    I worked as a freelance photographer in my sophomore year of college. It was a passion of mine since middle school. However, once my grandpa’s health started to deteriorate rapidly I found myself in a very mentally precarious situation.

    I was overwhelmed with crippling anxiety and depression—struggling to not only survive academically in all of my classes, but also trying to accept the inevitability of my grandpa’s impending death.

    Playing Guitar

    I started taking up guitar lessons on a complete whim and suddenly engrossed myself in the world of music.

    Gradually, my mind thought less and less about the things I couldn’t control because it was preoccupied with learning how to play my favorite songs on the guitar.

    Research has shown that people with hobbies are generally healthier and have a lower risk for depression and dementia.

    If you’re ready to start exploring new creative outlets, here are some things you should be thinking about:

    Is there anything you enjoyed doing during your childhood?

    There might be something you did back in high school or college that you can have fun doing even as an adult. Did you collect coins, stamps, or any other memorabilia?

    Is there anything you always found yourself always drawn towards?

    You may have an interest in interior design, gardening, or outdoor activities like hiking and tennis, but never had the time to pursue them.

    Guess what?

    Now’s the perfect time to try something new!

    As a caregiver, it’s important to give yourself a break every now and then too.

    Keep it simple, stupid.

    There’s no need to get crazy with your hobby just yet!

    Spend some time exploring your new found interest day by day to see if it’s something you are willing to pursue further.

    For example:

    If you have an interest for photography, you don’t have to go out and buy the latest and greatest equipment—especially when you are just starting out. Instead, you can rent cameras and lenses for a couple days or even use your smartphone to practice basic photography concepts.

    By keeping things simple, you can prevent investing too much of your time and finances into something you may not enjoy.

    4. Learn Coping Strategies

    What are you doing to cope with caregiver burnout? Say no to impulsive behavior. It’s not healthy for you to binge drink whenever you feel like distressing—neither is it healthy for you to eat that entire tub of ice cream in one sitting.

    It’s important to understand what is good for your health. You can learn healthy coping strategies for dealing with distress in your life.

    While your therapist can explore coping strategies with you during cognitive behavioral therapy, here are some that worked for me:

    • If you are ever experiencing a panic attack or feel one coming on picture seeing an imaginary exit sign over the nearest door. Allow yourself to get up, excuse yourself for a couple of minutes, and leave through that exit mentally.
    • Let yourself be happy, angry, and sad. It’s important to feel those emotions. You’re allowed to be upset when things don’t go your way or angry when someone wrongs you.
    • Don’t be so hard on yourself. You can take a break from caregiving, it doesn’t make you a bad person.
    • Manage your expectations so they are more in line with reality. If you expect too much and get too little, it’s an easy way to set yourself up for disappointment. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay positive—but being realistic means you accept things for what they are and if something exceeds your expectations, well, that’s always a nice plus.
    • Reaching out to friends about your caregiver burnout can provide you with source of support and outlet for discussion. Talking more about how you feel with your peers improves your self-awareness skills.
    • Remember to give yourself credit when credit is due. If you had a rough week, go out and celebrate. Don’t forget about all of the amazing things you’ve done for your loved one. Take into perspective how far you’ve come to get to where you are right now.
    • You are responsible for your own happiness. Don’t put the blame on someone else—while you can’t control others, you can at least change how you feel about external circumstances.
    • Try and ask yourself questions constantly about your mental state of mind.
      • Why am I feeling anxious or depressed?
        • What were the triggers that caused my negative feelings?
      • How can I replace my irrational thoughts with accurate thoughts?
        • Is there something healthy that I can do to help take my mind off things?
      • What are some things I can do next time when I have negative feelings?
        • You can write down the date and time and circumstances that led up to your negative behavior and/or thoughts in a journal. After a week of doing so, you should be able to pick out a pattern and develop a strategy for dealing with your emotions.
        • Before you take any action on a negative feeling or impulsive behavior, take a minute to slow yourself down and think about the consequences. Would you rather have that instant gratificationnow and feel bad about yourself later?

    Learning how to properly apply coping strategies to distressing situations and behaviors takes practice and time—don’t forget to cut yourself some slack every now and then.

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    5. Maintain Your Social Connections

    Did you know that social isolation kills more than obesity does? It’s also comparable to the increased mortality risk from smoking. Even more interesting is that social media isn’t all that social either—a report on the happiness of Facebook users showed that those who spent more time online were less happy.

    Caregiver burnout can negatively affect your social connections. It’s not uncommon for those experiencing depression and anxiety to cut off interaction with the people that are closest to you.

    Look:

    You’re doing yourself more harm than good.

    It may be much easier to decline the invite for an outing with friends, but forcing yourself to get out will help you focus on other things besides caregiving—like having fun for a change. Isolating yourself can put you in a downward cycle triggering more and more negative thoughts and behavior.

    How can you maintain your social connections?

    Honesty is the Best Policy

    Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist and author states that, “keeping an honest dialogue helps prevent you from building up cynicism and boiling over in a moment when you feel triggered.”

    She also says that close friends are able to ask you the hard questions—helping you get to know yourself better.

    You can reach out to your network of friends about your caregiver burnout. They may be able to offer a different perspective for you to consider.

    Opening up to someone allows you to connect with them on an entirely different level.

    Acquaintances Can Make for Great Friends

    Is there someone you wish you could see and talk to more often? It may help you to have a change of pace by spending time with an acquaintance.

    But how can you figure out if an acquaintance can for a great friend?

    • Find a common interest.
      • You may see that someone is talking about a great book you’re both reading or a favorite show you’re both watching. Use your common interest as a starting point for conversation. If you’re already connected on social media, replying with a simple comment may be all it takes.
    • Are you planning on going to an upcoming event?
      • A simple text or call to someone you met last month at a family gathering about accompanying you to an event can be a great ice breaker. Try to invite your acquaintance to an event based on both of your common interests. Most of the times, people will be happy that you thought of inviting them even if they can’t make it—don’t get discouraged!
    • Be direct when reaching out to an acquaintance.
      • Don’t beat around the bush. You can set up a lunch date to get together and catch up on life just by getting to the point and asking them.

    Start your search to turn acquaintances into friends in just a couple of minutes:

    Go through your contacts on your phone and see who would be a good fit.

    You may also have someone on Facebook who’s always “liking” your pictures and commenting on your status updates.

    If you never reach out, you’ll never know if you could’ve made a new friend!

    6. Join a Support Group

    Sidnee Peck, dementia and caregiver advocate, says, “I would get into a support group as soon as possible, and if there is a support group in your area for your loved one [with dementia], start planting that idea into his/her mind to warm her up to it. I think that the single most powerful thing my mom (now a full time caregiver for my dad) did in this process was to start attending a monthly support group.”

    Joining a support group allows you to share your personal story and receive emotional comfort from others who are going through the same experiences.

    You can find a support group that is specific to your loved one’s condition or for family caregivers.

    These nationwide organizations have many support groups that you can join locally:

    Local support groups have the benefit of face to face interaction with other family caregivers. However, it may not always be possible for you because of scheduling conflicts.

    Good news—the internet has you covered. It’s easier than ever to get connected with people from across the country and the world who are caregivers just like you.

    Joining these online support groups only takes up to five minutes of your time to set up a free account:

    Who knows, you might even be able to make a new friend at a support group!

    7. Contact Volunteer Services

    Depending on where you live, there may be charitable organizations that can provide seniors and their caregivers with volunteer services.

    National Volunteer Caregiving Network (NVCN)

    Caregivers with the NVCN have been volunteering their time and services for their communities across the country. There are over 500 local programs and coalitions that can provide you and your family with free assistance.

    Volunteers from the NVCN can help with a variety of different tasks:

    • Transportation to doctor appointments
    • Assisting with grocery shopping, reading, or paying bills
    • Minor home repairs
    • Meal preparation and light housekeeping
    • Friendly visiting and phone support
    • Respite care for family caregivers

    Find programs and coalitions near you by clicking here.

    Senior Corps

    A volunteer organization comprised of those aged 55 years and older, the Senior Corps helps those who need mentors, coaches, or a companion.

    The Senior Companions program can provide your loved one with another senior who can help with light housekeeping, transportation, and general companionship. Volunteers dedicate anywhere from 15 to 40 hours of service per week.

    Check with your local community or state website to see if there is a Senior Companion program near you.

    Volunteers of America

    A faith-based nonprofit organization, Volunteers of America work on providing affordable housing and other services to low-income people throughout the country. They have also been caring for seniors since the 1890s with professional long-term care—assisted living, home care, and nursing home care.

    Find local offices that offer senior services near you using your zip code here.

    8. Getting Organized Prepares You for Health Scares

    It’s easy to keep pushing things off to the side—you’re going to have to deal with it eventually. In fact, it’s better to get organized and face it right now—especially if you want to be prepared for any health scares.

    Putting Together Your Loved One’s Medical History

    If your loved one is ever unexpectedly hospitalized, it’s important to have all the relevant information in one place. You can easily create one in just a few minutes. Don’t forget to keep this list handy by having it on your refrigerator door!

    Here are some important information to include:

    • Name, date of birth, and current date
    • Height, weight, eye color, and hair color
    • Any current conditions
    • List of current medications
    • List of non-prescription medications
    • Allergy information
    • Personal medical history
    • Family medical history
    • Past surgeries
    • Emergency contact information
    • Adult immunizations
    • Health care providers
    • Health insurance information

    Educating Yourself About Your Loved One’s Condition

    Learning more about how their disease affects them and your daily life can help you plan for the future. Information is widely available online and there are several websites that focus on specific conditions.

    Here are some top caregiver blogs you can follow:

    Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia from these top blogs:

    Learn more about Parkinson’s disease from these top blogs:

    Unfortunately, I didn’t know that all of this was available to me when caring for my grandpa. Utilizing these free resources can help you make more informed decisions for your loved one.

    You can give them the best care possible by educating yourself about their condition.

    9. Use the Bucket Method Effectively to Reinforce Positive Behavior


Did you know that each and every one of us is carrying a bucket with us at all times? I’m not talking about a physical bucket—it’s a mental bucket that you can fill up every day.

Your bucket can get filled by friends, family, and yourself.

What goes in this bucket?

Positive behaviors are put inside your bucket to help you acknowledge your strengths.

“Wow! Peter, you did a great job with the photos from this weekend!”

“Son, I think it’s a wonderful idea that you’re volunteering at school.”

“I could have gone into the city with friends, but instead, I spent some great quality time with my sister.”

However, as we age, less and less people fill your bucket. You can’t rely on others to fill your bucket as an adult. Instead, we have to do it ourselves.

Just five minutes a day using the bucket method can help boost your confidence:

  • List all of the good things that happened throughout the day no matter how small
    • Did you wake up on time for work today?
    • Did you make someone’s day better?
    • Did you smile today?

You’ll see that there’s a lot of things that make you feel better about yourself.

It’s going to take some practice, but using the bucket method helps you focus your thoughts on positive behavior rather than dwelling on all of the things that didn’t go “right”.

10. Hiring Professional Help for Respite Care

As time passes and your loved one’s care needs increase, you may need to hire professional help.

Professional caregivers are trained to deal with some of the toughest responsibilities of caring for seniors. It’s not uncommon for you to find personal care for your loved one as being difficult—1 in 4 family caregivers found it difficult to provide proper assistance. 40% of family caregivers find that the most difficult duties are dealing with personal care—such as incontinence, changing adult diapers, and bathing.

While you may be able to save on the cost of home care with a family caregiver, a professional caregiver may hold a professional license in your state and have years of experience.

Home Care Agency

Many families rely on home care agencies to find a professional caregiver. An agency takes on the liability of hiring a caregiver as the employer. You won’t need to worry about things such as payroll taxes and worker related injuries. Agencies also take care of the screening process like running a criminal background check and interviewing caregivers for your loved one. There are many benefits to using a home care agency but as with any business, there are overhead costs passed on to the family in the agency’s rates.

Private Caregivers

Another option in finding affordable home care for seniors is hiring a caregiver directly who you find through word-of-mouth. If your loved one is part of a congregation or volunteer organization, there may be someone who has caregiving experience and is available to help. You can also find a caregiver by looking through your local classifieds section or on an online directory.

eCaregivers

eCaregivers is an online community that connects you with local, pre-screened caregivers. You can search for caregivers who live and work in your neighborhood with your zip code. Unlike your local classifieds sections, eCaregivers give you many options for local, private caregivers whose online profiles outline their experiences, qualifications, and schedule availability making it easier to find the caregiver who meets your needs.

Caregivers who join eCaregivers list a range of their rates for caregiver services. Generally rates start at $10-$14/hour, compared to the $20-$24/hour most agencies charge, helping you save thousands of dollars in a year while still ensuring quality home care for your loved one.

All of the caregivers on eCaregivers have passed a criminal background check so you have a peace of mind that you’re hiring a vetted caregiver for your loved one.

About the Author

eCaregiversPeter Kang is a writer for eCaregivers. He is inspired by his caregiver experience with his late grandfather and role model, a Korean War veteran, to help families find affordable care for their loved ones. Follow Peter on Facebook and Twitter.

4 thoughts on “10 Tips for Caregiver Burnout You Can Use Today

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