Take Care of You, Your Health is at Risk
By: Karin Pauly
Let’s face it, caregiving is hard work! Really, really hard. In fact, I believe it is one of the most challenging roles in the world. I discovered during my journey of caregiving there were many who just didn’t “get it” – what is involved in caregiving, the changes to the caregiver’s life, and the stress it creates. Wonderful friends, colleagues and some family members were incredibly supportive of me; however, those who experienced “carrying” the responsibility of the care and well-being of another human being with a chronic illness on their shoulders are the ones who truly understood the weight of my experience caregiving for my mom, Nancy. And, I hear frequently from other caregivers who say their friends and family don’t really understand.
I am here to say – “I get it!”.
Of course, all situations are different. None of us can completely understand everything a caregiver is going through. However, I do get that as a caregiver, you are “carrying a weight”. I also know it has an impact on your health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Caregiving can be rewarding because your relationship with your loved one may be enhanced. Spending more time together, understanding that your time is limited. You may feel a sense of accomplishment and that you are giving back. You may gain appreciation and gratefulness for your loved one.
Yet…because caregiving is so challenging – you are at risk of Caregiver Burnout.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Physical, mental and emotional exhaustion which may result in a change in attitude from positive to negative. Fatigue, stress, anxiety and exhaustion may be the result. This can lead to a severe negative impact on your health as a caregiver – and should never be taken lightly.
WARNING: Recently, I was at a caregiver training session and the speaker, a formal social worker for a nursing home, shared a term called, “Twofers”. A “Twofer” is when a patient with a chronic illness and their caregiver are admitted into the nursing home – at the same time! And, many times we hear of a caregiver dying before their loved one.
A healthier caregiver results in better outcomes for the loved one/patient – so, it is the right thing to do – to take care of yourself means you are taking better care of your loved one.
How to Manage Caregiver Burnout
Okay – so there is a TON of advice out there about how to take better care of yourself – like eat right, exercise, meditate. We have all heard it MANY times over. (Blah, Blah, Blah.) So, I am only going to ask two things from you, for now:
- Go to your doctor and get a complete physical – Keep your appointments and know your “health numbers”. Knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol, nutritional deficiencies, and health risks will tell you what you need to work on.
- Share with others. Do not be afraid to talk about your caregiving experience and challenges! Talk to your friends, and perhaps your employer, if you trust them, you may be surprised how much they understand. Immediate family members may not understand, so reach out to others you can trust. And leave those immediately who are not supportive – if you sense that someone doesn’t give a “___” when you are sharing – stop the conversation and move on as it is not worth your time. What I am getting at is, it is ok to talk about it. Reach out because there are so many others going through something similar and they may have a nugget of information or encouragement to help you. There are angels and diamonds who will appear in your life, if you open up.
One last thought:
I picked these two “Asks” of you as a caregiver, because if you are not alive or connected, you can no longer be an effective caregiver.
Thank you for caring. You do the most important work in the world.