Algerine Correia explained in Episode 2 of Your Turn to Care how she learned the importance of taking care of herself when she moved her elderly parents into her home. Caring for a loved one who is chronically ill or disabled is demanding, emotionally and physically. The most well-intentioned caregiver may find the stress of giving care, while working and tending to all the other demands of a life, can quickly lead to burnout.
According to WebMD, [http://women.webmd.com/caregiver-recognizing-burnout] some symptoms of caregiver burnout are:
- Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Getting sick more often
- Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
It is critical to recognize warning signs of caregiver burnout and to take action when you realize your life is becoming unmanageable and your health and well-being are at risk.
There are ways to avoid caregiver burnout, according to WebMD: [http://women.webmd.com/caregiver-recognizing-burnout]
- Talk to someone you can trust, such as a friend, co-worker, or neighbor.
- Set goals which are realistic and accept that you may need help with caregiving because it is okay to turn to others for help with some tasks.
- Be realistic about your loved one's disease, especially if it is a progressive disease such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
- Don't forget about yourself because you're too busy caring for someone else. Set aside time for yourself, even if it's just an hour or two--take a dance class, go out with friends, pamper yourself. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury but an absolute necessity.
- Stay healthy by eating right and getting plenty of exercise and sleep. Accept your feelings. Having negative feelings--such as frustration or anger--about your responsibilities or the person for whom you are caring is normal. It does not mean you are a bad person or a bad caregiver.
- Talk to a professional if you need to. Most therapists, social workers, and clergy members are trained to counsel individuals dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
- Take advantage of respite care services. Respite care provides a temporary break for caregivers. This can range from a few hours of in-home care to a short stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
- Know your limits and do a reality check of your personal situation.
- Join a caregiver support group. In Los Angeles, for example, you can register to attend a weekly support group through the Los Angeles Department of Aging. [http://aging.lacity.org/caregivers/support.cfm]
Ultimately, being open about your feelings and experiences with others, especially those in a similar situation, can help manage stress and avoid burnout. For more information on resources for caregivers, visit: http://www.caregiver.com/regionalresources/index.htm.