As part of our mission to provide the highest quality in-home care services to communities throughout the United States, AmeriCare works to ensure that the caregivers we recommend to our clients are happy and healthy. An important aspect of being a well-rounded caregiver is recognizing and acknowledging the signs of burnout and creating a self care plan to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Understanding the Weight of Caregiving
Caregivers take on incredible physical, emotional, and mental responsibilities when aiding our loved ones. They provide physical, occupational, health and wellness, and emotional support for individuals recovering from major surgery, dealing with chronic illness, or for those who are working to maintain independence with physical or mental limitations. Providing support for people in this way can take a toll on caregivers.
To help our network of caregivers and in-home professionals across the country, we’ve put together a few resources to help prevent burnout.
The Signs of Caregiver Stress
The Alzheimer’s Association cites these 10 indicators that a caregiver may be experiencing a high level of stress:
- Anger or frustration toward the person you’re caring for
- Denial about your loved one’s condition
- Exhaustion that makes it tough to complete your daily tasks
- Health problems, such as getting sick more often
- Inability to concentrate that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks or causes you to forget appointments
- Irritability and moodiness
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities that you used to enjoy
Another tool to evaluate whether tending to a loved one is taking a toll is an 18-question caregiver self-assessment called “How Are You?” that the American Medical Association developed and the American Psychological Association recommends. (AARP, May 2020)
The Signs of Caregiver Burnout
At a certain point, stress can turn into burnout, which can have far-reaching negative effects on your own life, your family and friends, and your clients. If you notice any of the following patterns, it may be time to create an action plan to reverse burnout:
- You have much less energy than you once had
- It seems like you catch every cold or bout of flu that’s going around
- You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break
- You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
- Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
- You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
- You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for
- You feel helpless and hopeless (Helpguide.org)
Take Care of Your Own Health
Because the job of a caregiver can be very physical, it’s important to set goals for your own health. Try setting goals that establish a good sleep routine and create space to exercise a certain number of hours every week. Try to eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. See your doctor for recommended immunizations and screenings. Tell your physician that you’re a caregiver and bring up any concerns you may have. A daily relaxation and meditation practice can be beneficial as well. (AARP, May 2020)
In other words, follow the advice you give to your own clients. Sleep well, eat well, move your body. You deserve the same level of care and attention that you provide to your own clients.
Seek External Support and Validation
Imagine how clients would respond if they were healthy. If they weren’t preoccupied with illness or pain (or disabled by dementia), how would they feel about the care and dignity you’re giving? Remind yourself that while they may be unable to, your clients would express gratitude if they could.
Applaud your own efforts. If you’re not getting external validation, find ways to acknowledge and reward yourself. Remind yourself of how much you are helping. If you need something more concrete, try making a list of all the ways your caregiving career makes a difference in the lives of your clients, their families, and your community. Try to refer back to it when you start to feel low.
Talk to a supportive family member or friend. Positive reinforcement may not always come from the clients you’re caring for. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or under-appreciated, turn to friends and family who will listen to you and acknowledge your career stressors. (Helpguide.org)
Give Yourself a Break
As a busy professional caregiver, leisure time may seem like an impossible luxury. But you owe it to yourself—as well as to the people you’re caring for—to make some time for yourself. You have permission to rest and do things that you enjoy on a daily basis. You will be a better caregiver for it.
Understand the difference between being busy and being productive.
If you’re not regularly taking time-off to de-stress and recharge your batteries, you may end up accomplishing less in the long run. Breaks can help you feel more energetic and focused, so you’ll quickly make up for your relaxation time.
Maintain your personal relationships.
Don’t let your friendships get lost in the shuffle of professional caregiving. These are the relationships that will help sustain you and have a positive effect on your life.
Make times for activities that bring you joy.
Make regular time for hobbies that bring you happiness, like reading, working in the garden, making crafts, playing with the dogs, or kicking back for a nice movie.
Consider scheduling a massage or facial. Maybe you can get a manicure or pedicure. Indulge in a nice meal or take yourself on a mini getaway. You do so much for others, it’s okay to give yourself permission to enjoy life.
Make yourself laugh.
Laughter is an excellent antidote to stress—and a little goes a long way. Try reading a funny magazine, check out the latest comedy series, or call a friend who makes you laugh. (Helpguide.org)
Find the Right Fit
Whether you work for an agency, you’re an independent contractor, or you’re part of a larger organization, it’s important to find a group of like-minded professionals that care just as much about their caregivers as their clients. Look for opportunities to connect with agencies or groups that help prioritize your health and wellbeing while balancing the important needs of their clients. When you have a strong support system, your ability to provide wonderful, dignified, and meaningful care is limitless. If you are interested in learning more about AmeriCare or joining our network of in-home caregivers, contact us today!