Do you have Family Caregiver Burnout? The Family Caregiver burns out quickly. Here’s why:
Having a dependent senior loved one can feel like standing on the edge of a cliff. There’s a 10,000 ft. drop on either side, and you’ve got a 50lb. pack on your back. It sometimes feels like your loved one is on your back. We don’t want to make one false move.
Family caregivers often feel like they aren’t making a difference. The rewards for our efforts are exclusively internal. We are hungry for answers. We feel like we are the only one who cares. We feel like our care is the only care that will suffice. We will try anything to make our loved one feel better. But they don’t feel better. We start to feel hopeless.
As family caregivers we are determined to provide excellent care, but we don’t really do the math when we dive in. Family caregivers are always the first to burn out because they would simply do anything for their loved one. But doing anything for your loved one may not be what they want. Caring for your loved one doesn’t mean sacrificing every other obligation in your life. Would your loved one wish for you to suffer in this way? I sincerely doubt it.
Along our path as family caregivers we started with the best of intentions. Along our path however we have made some critical errors. We haven’t taken any comfort measures for ourselves. We stopped our running regiment. We don’t go to the gym anymore. We aren’t eating well. We are so determined to help that we’ve dropped all other commitments. We don’t see our friends. We ask: Where is the rest of my family help? We sacrifice every one of our own comforts. We don’t get any sleep!
There is a simple reason why being a family caregiver is so difficult and challenging. When you have a loved one who is dependent upon care 24/7, it is fully exhausting. The first thing we do as family caregivers is miss our own appointments. We neglect our own obligations. Family caregivers often lose their jobs. Their relationships take a beating and often end in divorce. We sell our houses, or bring our loved one out of their home. We leave our own neighbors and neighborhoods.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s happening to you right now. These are also the common stories our clients share with us prior to receiving help. As family caregivers, we often fall on our own swords. We go way past the extra mile in order to ensure that our loved one is thriving and that he or she never has a shred of discomfort.
Several years ago, we received a call from a gentleman named Mark who was caring for his wife as she battled Multiple Sclerosis. As Mark described for me the lifting his care required, he was certainly that man on the cliff with a 10,000 ft. drop on either side. For Mark, it was either get help or have a full caregiver burnout.
I had to ask Mark a few basic question. Was he sleeping? Were the moment to moment needs of his wife the sole purpose of his life at present? Would his wife want him to go without sleep? When was the last time he left the house? Is he being a great husband if he’s losing his temper as he cares for his wife?
These were difficult questions for Mark to answer, but I knew he was nearing complete burnout. I didn’t want caregiver burnout to happen to Mark. I explained all we could do to help Mark and we soon came to a working solution and care plan. Relief came for Mark that night in the form of Monica, one of our great overnight caregivers.
When Monica arrived at 7:45, Mark introduced her to his wife and showed Monica the ropes. Monica reported that Mark then entered a quiet room in his house and slept for 11 hours.
This similar pattern continued for 2 years in a row. Our staff would arrive and within 15 minutes they would hear Mark snoring in a quiet room in the house.
Mark would wake refreshed each morning and determined to be the daytime caregiver for his wife. It was beautiful to see Mark’s caring and talented hands helping his wife so expertly. When Mark’s wife passed, he was heartbroken and yet grateful he had given his all and provided so much of the care himself. Mark had been thru a great deal. Knowing he would never accept, I offered Mark a position as a caregiver with our company. We settled on his having an honorary position with Always There Home Care. He provides uscounsel and we stay in touch when we have other great men who would benefit from his story.