7 Steps to Create a Caregiver Burnout Plan

7 Steps to Create a Caregiver Burnout Plan

Busy, sometimes overwhelmed family caregivers are often called the “invisible victims” or the “second victims” of Alzheimer’s disease. However, this description can also apply to any family caregiver whose days are consumed with caring for a loved one and whose labor of love places them at risk of caregiver burnout.

Says Susan Irrgang, RN, LNHA, Executive Director at Saunders House in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, “Today, with our large aging population and people living longer, an increasing number of family members are finding themselves in the role of primary caregiver. This role is often accompanied by less personal time, fewer hours of sleep, increased stress and even physical and emotional exhaustion. In its most extreme form, caregiver stress can lead to serious caregiver burnout, which is hazardous to the health and well-being of well-intentioned caregivers.”

“Medical professionals warn that caregiver burnout can result in several harmful conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, excessive weight gain, exhaustion, stroke and serious depression. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the combination of loss, prolonged stress, the physical demands of caregiving, and the biological vulnerabilities that come with age place you at risk for significant health problems as well as an earlier death.

“However, the good news for caregivers is that there are several ways you can reduce the stressors leading to burnout while creating more of a healthy balance in your life. Remember, you can only care for your loved one if you are physically and emotionally capable yourself.”

As noted in the article, “Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers,” “You cannot stop the impact of a chronic or progressive illness or a debilitating injury on someone for whom you care. But there is a great deal that you can do to take responsibility for your personal well-being and to get your own needs met.”

7 Ways You Can Reduce the Risk of Caregiver Burnout

According to experts on caregiver burnout, there are specific steps you can take to reduce your stress level while also improving the quality of care you provide to your loved one.

  1. Talk to your doctor Let your doctor know you are a caregiver and discuss the stresses in your life and symptoms that could result in burnout. Work with your doctor to create a plan for your own health and also get recommended immunizations and screenings.
  2. Seek the help of others – Caregiving can be too great a job for any one person. Doing everything by yourself can lead to exhaustion and the risk of burnout. Ask for the help and support of siblings and other family members as well as your close friends.
    Others often want to help out with caregiving, but don’t know quite what to do. Therefore, always be clear and specific in asking others for assistance, e.g. “Please take mom for her dental appointment next Wednesday.”
  3. Take advantage of available resources – There are many available programs and community resources that can help support your caregiver role and make your life easier. Examples include delivering meals, providing transportation, making regular check-in phone calls, helping around the house.

    You can contact your local government, Office of Aging, churches and synagogues to find out what services are available in your area. Also, the U.S. Administration on Aging website and the Alzheimer’s Association site can help identify services.

    In addition, respite care offered at leading senior care communities like Saunders House provides family caregivers and their loved ones with a break from the typical care routine. Caregivers are afforded some down time and can rest easy, while loved ones benefit from the care and support provided within our nurturing environment. We give you the time you need to recharge so that you can continue providing the best care to your loved one in the future.

    Caregiver support groups can also be helpful by offering an opportunity to share your challenges with peers, find easier ways of doing things, and learn new ways to cope with your stress.
  4. Exercise! – It has been shown that physical activity can help reduce stress and your risk of burnout while improving your overall wellbeing. Take a walk or do any activity you love that will get you up and moving whether it’s tennis, gardening or dancing.
  5. Try relaxation techniques – There are a variety of relaxation techniques that experts say can help relieve your stress and your susceptibility to burnout. These include: visualization (mentally picturing a place or situation that is peaceful and calm); meditation (which can be as simple as dedicating 15 minutes a day to letting go of all stressful thoughts); breathing exercises (slowing your breathing and focusing on taking deep breaths); muscle relaxation (tightening and then relaxing each muscle group, starting at one end of your body and working your way to the other end).

    For many, prayer can also provide a sense of comfort, serenity and reassurance.
  6. Give yourself regular “me time” –  Caregivers typically find it difficult to schedule time for themselves. However, staying connected to friends, family, and the activities you love is important to your health and well-being, say authorities on caregiver burnout. Enjoyable activities such as reading a good book, listening to music, gardening, yoga, tai chi and outings with friends can take the edge off stress and help insulate you against burnout.
  7. Eat well and get enough sleep – A healthy diet and sufficient sleep can also help to ward off burnout. Eat nutritious meals and avoid stress-induced overeating as well as overdoing the sweets. Also, your sleep is vital to your physical and emotional health. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, catch up with a nap during the day.

    Susan adds, “By following these seven steps, you can reduce your daily stress level and avoid the serious consequences of caregiver burnout.”

We invite you to stay current on other senior health and senior care topics by viewing the latest articles on our website.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog on “7 Steps to Create a Caregiver Burnout Plan,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services – including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, restorative care, memory care, respite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Saunders House, our Short-Term Rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at 610.658.5100 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.

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