Caregiver Burnout

Even the most loving, compassionate family caregivers reaches a state of burnout, if they do not take adequate steps, early on, to prevent it.  Even if they do take preventive measures, they will approach “brown out” stage from time to time.  When that happens, the alarm bells need to be programmed, already, to alert the family caregiver to their new state and enable them to take appropriate remedial actions.

Reaching the burnout state has nothing to do with finances or education or other measure of socioeconomic status.  It has to do with the incredibly demanding role that family caregivers play.

Celia Watson Seupel is one of the bloggers for The New Old Age.  In December of last year, she wrote an eloquent post about her own experience with burnout:

Everybody talks about caregiver burnout, how you have to make time for yourself or you won’t be able to go on. But nobody talks about how burnout creeps up on you, how it starts to happen before you even realize it. Burnout can be hard to recognize.

She is so right.  That is why it is so important that we educate family caregivers that it is going to happen — unless we prepare for it and take preventive measures.

The New Old Age blogger quotes Barry J. Jacobs, author of “The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers” in one of the most simplest, most “right on” summaries of what happens with family caregiver burnout:

Often people make a commitment to caregiving as a matter of course…  It’s about family. But they don’t know what they’re signing up for, or how long it will last. At first, caregivers are able to set aside other aspirations, hobbies and friendships to focus on caregiving. But as time goes on, that takes a greater toll.

Equally articulate is the author’s summary:

The experts say that caregivers must make time for themselves, but what I realized is how important the quality of that time is. Time for oneself doesn’t mean time working alone, even when it’s work I love. It means taking time off to connect with friends, to have fun and for me, most importantly, to renew from a wellspring deeper than my own.

Too often in home care, we provide respite for family caregivers who use the time off to run errands, keep doctor’s appointments or other totally un-fun duties.  Cecil Watson Seupel hits the nail on the head.  Respite means real time for oneself, to rejuvenate and reenergize.  If you are a family caregiver – or love someone who is – take this message seriously.

Best wishes.  Bert


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