We keep putting one foot in front of the other, day after day. We do what is in front of us, to the best of our ability. And time goes by. Sometimes, as time slips away day by day, we live our life so close to our caregiving that we can't, as the old saying goes, see the forest for the trees. We don't notice our stress levels. We don't notice our failing energy. We don't notice our lack of enthusiasm for life.
Take Stock of Where You Are
You went into caregiving in high gear. You did what was needed at the moment. You are still doing what is needed. However, you may not be taking time to sit back and think that the high-adrenaline caregiving you started out with could cause caregiver burnout if you don't revaluate your position from time to time.
Every few months, or whenever there is a shift in your life - caregiving or otherwise - it's good to take an inventory of what you are doing and how well you are doing it. Also, it's a good time to evaluate your care receiver and see how much this person's needs have changed.
By taking a look at both sides of the situation, you may gain some clarity. It's also good to discuss, with a trusted third party, how caregiving is evolving. There is a good chance that you can continue on in the same mode you've been using these last months. However, there's also a good chance that you may need to tweak the care routine a little, or a lot.
Evaluate Your Situation
- Are you watching your own health? Getting your checkups and refilling your prescriptions?
- Are you getting out alone once in awhile?
- Are you having any fun at all?
- Is your loved one still getting social stimulation through friends or family?
- Are you reasonably content most of the time (of course you will have times when you are not - that is normal).
If this checks out, you may want to keep on with the way you've been caregiving, whether that is in your home, your loved one's home or with paid or volunteer help.
However, if your loved one's health has changed dramatically in the last month or so, and he or she needs much more intensive care, maybe it's time for a change. Or if your own health - mental or physical - is taking a nosedive, then it's likely time for a change.
- Are you finding that you are exhausted nearly all the time?
- Are your other family members feeling chronically neglected?
- Are your isolated from your friends?
- Are you skipping your own health care checkups?
- Are you angry with your care receiver, rather than patient as you used to be?
These could be signs you are suffering from caregiver burnout and that you need some help. This help could be from a faith community or block nurse program, some in-home care from a community agency, or hired in-home help, assisted living or a nursing home for your loved one.
Short-term exhaustion, some skipped appointments, a bad day here and there - that's normal. But if you find that you would like to escape your life more days than not, it's time for help. Check with your state's Web site and look under "aging services" or something similar. Find their version of the Family Caregiver Support Program. See what services you can find locally to help you have some time to yourself.
If that isn't enough, then it's time to look at paid help or assisted living for your loved one. You would still be a caregiver, you just won't be doing it alone. If siblings and/or in-home agencies can't help you, then you need to look farther.
A quarterly checkup on your own wellbeing, and that of your loved one, may help you see when some type of help is a wise move. Without an emergency to force us into action, many of us can continue just slogging along, until one day we realize we missed our lives. Do a reality check on a regular basis, and you should have a good feel as to whether or not you need to make some adjustments in your caregiving.
Published On: June 05, 2010