While being a full-time caregiver can be very rewarding, it's also a lot of hard work. Similar to nurses and other health care professionals, caregivers can overwork themselves, resulting in fatigue and burnout. The Mayo Clinic notes that long-term caregiving is also becoming increasingly common due to an aging population and a trend of shorter hospital stays for patients. In time, providing care for a loved one can take an emotional and physical toll. For caregivers, it's important to develop strategies to relieve stress and avoid burnout in order to provide better quality care – here are five ideas for preventing burnout:
1. Ask for help
Trying to take on all of the responsibilities of being a caregiver on your own will eventually get exhausting. The Mayo Clinic points out that many caregivers fall into this trap, and hence get stressed and burned out. However, there's no reason to take on the act of providing care alone. There are numerous resources for caregivers, such as adult day services provided by assisted living retirement communities. Consider also talking with friends and family about taking some of the responsibility, even if it's just for a few hours per week.
"Exercise is one of the best means of relieving stress."
2. Don't neglect your own health
Taking care of a loved one may seem to leave you with little time to take care of yourself. However, falling into poor habits, such as eating unhealthy food or forgoing exercise, will actually burn you out more in the long run. AARP notes that exercise is one of the best means of relieving stress and that even a short walk or jog is enough to release some endorphins and boost your immune system. Sometimes it may be tough to convince yourself to get moving after a long day, but the results will help eliminate fatigue and stress. That way, you can continue providing the best care for your loved one.
3. Strengthen your support system
Reader's Digest advises joining a caregivers support group, which are often available through local organizations such as hospitals, churches and even assisted living communities. Discussing your challenges with other caregivers will allow you to relieve stress and talk about burnout honestly with others who understand your situation. You can also strengthen the support system you already have in place by making communications more efficient. For example, you may want to create an email group or private group on a social media platform to simplify the process of coordinating care with friends and family.
4. Talk to your doctor
The Mayo Clinic recommends discussing that you are a caregiver with your doctor. This will allow your primary physician to ensure you have the recommended immunizations and give you a chance to discuss your stresses with a medical professional. If you seem particularly fatigued or prone to illness from working tirelessly, your doctor may be able to help you come up with practical solutions.
5. Recharge your batteries
If you've cast hobbies and relaxing pastimes to the sideline in order to focus on providing care, make sure to take some time off and recharge your batteries. While you may not be able to go on an extended vacation, spending even a few hours on an activity you enjoy can make a tremendous difference in your outlook. Whether it's fishing, yoga, cooking an elaborate homemade meal or spending some social time with your friends, taking a little you time is sure to reduce your risk of feeling burnt out in the long run.