November is National Family Caregivers Month (NFCM)! It’s a time to recognize and honor family caregivers and offers an opportunity to raise awareness of caregiving issues and increase support for caregivers.
Many caregivers work so hard caring for the people around them that they forget to take care of themselves. The result can be what is often referred to as “caregiver burnout.” If you are serving as the caregiver in your family, it’s important to recognize the signs that you may be trying to do too much.
Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- Am I always exhausted, even after sleeping all night?
- Do I catch an inordinate number of colds or flu?
- Does it seem like my whole life revolves around caregiving, but I don’t get any satisfaction from it?
- Have I lost the ability to simply relax?
- Am I increasingly impatient with and irritated by the person in my care?
- Am I feeling overwhelmed and helpless, sometimes even hopeless?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, and the symptoms seem to have appeared after you began to assume the duties of caregiver, it is quite possible that you have reached or are close to burnout.
But remember, what you are feeling is completely normal. Caregiver burnout is increasingly common given that Americans are living longer than ever before and frequently need long-term care as they grow older.
Here are some steps you can take to take care of yourself and avoid caregiver burnout:
- Learn as much as you can about your family member’s illness and how to care for that illness. The more you know, the more effective you’ll be and the better you’ll feel about your efforts.
- Recognize your limits, and take a more realistic approach to how much time and effort you can give. Then, be sure to express those limits to doctors and family members.
- Accept the way you feel. Anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, grief… all of these emotions and more are commonly felt by caregivers.
- Talk to people about what you feel. Keeping your emotions bottled up doesn’t do you or the person you are caring for any good. Confiding in trusted friends and family members can prove invaluable.
This last step is extremely important. Support is available from people who understand what you are going through and can help you cope with the stress involved. You’ll find support groups within the community online, through your physician, and in organizations associated with the health problem of the loved one under your care.
Remember— you are not alone. If you are overwhelmed as a caregiver, it may be time to consider alternative long-term care for your loved one. An experienced attorney from LA Elder Law is happy to speak with you about your unique situation and advise you on the options that are best for you and your loved one. You can contact us directly by calling 310-823-3943 to schedule a free consultation about your unique needs. We look forward to working with you.