Avoiding Burnout in Primary Care Givers
Burnout is a real disorder and is insidious in nature, creeping up on you silently and attacking when you least expect it. We think we are in control and can cope with the demands of running a full time career, family life as well as caring for an aging loved one. Perhaps we might struggle from time to time, but we think we can overcome the demands ourselves. After all, this is our family and it is private and personal; strangers have no place in our homes. Right?
Wrong. Trying to cope alone without at least exploring your options and having a care plan in place for emergencies is doing a great disservice to ourselves and ultimately to the very people we are trying so hard to care for. Taking care of anyone close to us has its emotional and physical toll. We care for our children, spouses and often it falls on us to care for our parents as well. The problem is that while juggling our own families, we also need to respect that our parents are adults too and have lived full and independent lives. While trying to honor them and respect their wishes, we have to at the same time, find ways to care for them without belittling them or sacrificing our own children’s welfare in the process. This is the common dilemma many family caregivers face whether they are aware of it or not. It is this ongoing struggle which often causes burnout, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Good home care companies will understand these issues and what it means to have a stranger come into your home to assist. The first step is to make inquiries and establish a provisional care plan. Investigate all your options and the resources available to you. Ask your home care provider if they offer free consultations/assessments. Often, during the course of these friendly open conversations, vital bits of information arise that would normally not arise during a general inquiry over the phone. For example, on the phone you might inquire about how much a caregiver costs, but in a one on one conversation, it might surface that your loved one wanders at night and gets violently aggressive in the evening. You are perplexed because Mom was always such a sweet and gentle soul. Perhaps you are embarrassed to admit this awful behavior. A good and reputable home care professional would explain that this can be quite normal behavior and that “Sun-downers” is a common symptom in certain types of dementia. They could recommend support groups to help you learn about the condition and could give you tips on how to manage the situation. Most importantly ask if they would arrange to send you a caregiver who has advanced experience and training in dementia to help you cope overnight and allow you get a good night’s rest, safe in the knowledge that your Mom is well cared for and is not going to go prowling down the street at three am looking for her dearly departed husband. This is information you would not usually pick up on the average telephone call and is why a personal consultation can be so important initially.
Even if you think you are coping just fine on your own, it makes prudent sense to pick up the phone and make inquiries. When you have all the facts and resources available to you, make a provisional care plan with relevant phone numbers for the time when you feel you can no longer cope. Try not to leave it until you are completely overwhelmed, ask for help early. Help is often only a phone call away. how to find a caregiver