“The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.” – Pablo Casals, World renowned cellist
As a caregiver, you are one of many courageous people who provide care for a loved one. You provide emotional and physical support, and may also deal with medical and financial decisions. Coping with the strains and stresses of caregiving can be challenging. You may be so focused on giving care to the one you love that you sacrifice your own well-being in the process. It is important to pay attention to your needs too (emotional, physical, social and spiritual), otherwise, symptoms of caregiver burnout and fatigue may quickly arise. Be aware of the following signs that may indicate caregiver burnout:
- Feelings of depression
- Ongoing fatigue
- Decreased interest in work
- Decreased work productivity
- Withdrawal from social contacts/self-isolation
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Increasing fear of death
- Change in eating habits (too much/too little)
- Feelings of helplessness
The dilemma a caregiver faces is how to take care of a loved one while maintaining care of oneself. The following are suggestions and strategies for self care to help prevent caregiver burnout:
- Ask for help and support when needed and when offered. Share caregiving efforts with family and friends.
- Take breaks, both long and short. Relax whenever possible.
- Stay involved in hobbies or interest (knitting, Bible study, reading, etc.).
- Be informed. Read/research as much as you can about your loved one’s illness. Understanding the disease and its progression will help you feel less alienated from the unknown.
- Exercise daily and maintain a healthy diet.
- Take care of your own health. Schedule regular check-ups with your physician.
- Express your feelings. Allow for the expression of your feelings—in private or with a supportive friend. An essential part of taking care of yourself is allowing yourself to grieve in anticipation of your loss.
- Take advantage of people support. Friends, family, support groups and Hospice staff are important sources of support to caregivers.
The reality is, providing care for a loved one who is dying can be filled with stress and anxiety that can lead to burnout if self care strategies are not practiced. At the same time, the caregiving experience can present beautiful and meaningful moments. Facing the challenges and emotional pain of a loved one’s life-limiting illness will have dramatic effects on your life. However, this difficult time is also uniquely rewarding and offers the very precious opportunity to spend time together—time rich with meaning, gratitude, compassion and love.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hrrv.org.