Family caregiver burnout is prevalent due to the effort required to take care of a loved one. Often a burnt-out caregiver isn’t aware that their own mental and physical health is declining until it reaches a critical point.
Knowing what behaviors lead to burnout, and identifying the symptoms that lead up to it can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle for both you and your loved one. In this article, we’ll look at harmful behaviors to avoid, how to remedy them, and when to seek additional help.
Lack of Sleep
We could write a separate article (maybe an entire book!) on the endless list of mental and physical health problems a lack of sleep causes. You’ve no doubt heard of the importance of sleep for your elderly loved one. If they’re to receive the care they deserve, it’s just as important you’re getting your eight hours too.
It’s easy to grab your phone, get on the computer, or turn on the TV after settling your loved one in bed for the night. While this may be an easy way to wind down when you’re tired at the end of a long day, the blue light from these devices affects your ability to fall and stay asleep. It’s also best to avoid big meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime if you want solid sleep.
Having a consistent schedule for going to bed and waking up, as well as keeping your room dark and cool can go a long way in improving your sleep schedule too.
Your body, mind, and loved one will all thank you.
Lack of Exercise
Exercise is crucial to maintaining physical and mental health. It releases endorphins and serotonin to elevate mood and improves blood flow to keep you feeling energized throughout the day.
But when you’re tired from taking care of your aging family member and possibly your own children, in addition to other responsibilities, the last thing on your mind is physical activity. Unfortunately, not working out makes you feel tired physically too. So how do you get into an exercise routine when you’re trying to get over that initial hump?
Start off small. Just going for a little walk in the evening, or starting your day with a few simple stretches can make a big difference in your stress level. Committing to just a little bit each day will lead to big results for your physical and mental health.
We all have vices. Maybe yours is nicotine, ice cream, or binging your favorite show. Take a moment to think about what you do when you’re stressed, and pause the next time you reach for that activity.
It’s a good opportunity to evaluate your relationship with caregiving and take action steps to either relieve the workload by bringing in an in-home care provider or striking a healthier balance between caregiving and personal rest.
Vices can be useful when viewed as an awareness and self-improvement tool.
Not Taking a Break
There are going to be times where you feel like you need to “power through” or there’s too much to be done to take a moment for yourself.
One of the most important things a family caregiver can do is realize when it’s time to fill up their own cup. Overworking yourself will only bring harm to yourself and the person you’re providing care for. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you properly give them the care they need?
Your break doesn’t always have to be a vacation or a spa day. It can be as simple as a deep breath, taking a half hour to enjoy a nice meal or a hot shower.
If your body isn’t getting the nutrition it needs, you’ll burn out and become irritable quickly. Simple caregiving actions will become overwhelming and you may even lash out at the very person you’re trying to take care of.
When you’re overworked it’s easy to skip meals and “power through” the day as we mentioned. If you and your loved one are on different meal plans this can be amplified by having to cook separate meals.
It’s crucial you carve out time for when you’re going to eat. This might involve meal prepping in advance or waking up earlier to cook a nutritional breakfast. Your meals shouldn’t be rushed either. It’s an important part of the day to relax for a moment.
In addition to a consistent meal schedule, it’s also important what you are putting into your body. Processed and high-sugar foods can cause you to feel sluggish throughout the day and take away much-needed energy. Eating healthy, as well as staying hydrated, will not only give you more stamina when working hard but provide a mental health boost as well.
Eliminating the harmful behaviors mentioned will reduce the negative effects that an overworked family caregiver encounters. But it may not eliminate them.
It’s possible that even with more energy you still don’t have enough time in the day to balance being a caregiver with other responsibilities. Not a lot of people do.
If you’re looking for help with caregiving, whether that’s around the clock or just the occasional day off, in-home care can provide great flexibility for both you and your loved one.
At Golden Care, we take pride in being San Diego’s trusted in-home care provider. If you have any questions about how in-home care can help your caregiving situation don’t hesitate to contact us.