Caregiver Support

Caring for Caregivers
Caregivers have many roles when it comes to a patient with a life-limiting illness.  Caregivers may be family members, neighbors, or friends.  Often caregivers work in teams to provide for the needs of the patient.  One caregiver may be an excellent cook, another is comfortable sitting and visiting, while yet another is skillful at communicating with all involved and developing a schedule of support.  All roles are critical in caregiving.

Yet being a caregiver can take a toll on an individual emotionally and physically.  The Beloit Regional Hospice care team is always on call to support the caregivers and provide tips on making the best of a difficult situation.  Caregivers have to take care of themselves in order to be able to take care of another.  Following are some important reminders for caregivers.

The Person You Care For Has the Right to Make Decisions.
Unless your loved one has lost the capacity to make decisions, he or she has the right to make decisions about his or her life and care. Respecting this right is critical to the dying process.

Whenever Possible, Offer Choices.
The ability to make choices is a basic freedom, so provide choices whenever possible: from where to live to what to eat to what to wear. Being able to make decisions leaves the patient with dignity and comfort.  It also avoids conflict among caregivers when the patient is making the choices.

Allow Independence. 
Helping your loved one maintain a feeling of independence will make him or her feel better about being in a care-receiving situation.   Try not to take over.

Be Sure To Do What You Promise To Do.
When a loved one is already feeling vulnerable, it is important to remember that your loved one needs you, even if he or she doesn’t say so.

Take Care Of Yourself.
This may seem obvious, but caregivers often exhaust themselves by trying to handle caregiving responsibilities on top of normal daily routines. Providing care for a loved one while holding down a job, can lead to exhaustion. If you do become exhausted, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or to take out your frustrations on your loved one. Caregivers who refresh themselves can be there for the long haul.

“Respite care” simply means an interval of rest or relief. It gives caregivers an opportunity to create a conscious plan of self-care for themselves; something caregivers often overlook. The lack of a plan can result in caregiver burnout.

  1. Care-giving is a job , even when offered out of love and support. Reward yourself with respite breaks often.
  2. Watch out for signs of depression, and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
  3. When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things they can do.
  4. Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition and how to communicate effectively with doctors and with the patient.
  5. There’s a difference between caring and doing. Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your loved one’s independence.
  6. Trust your instincts; most of the time they will lead you in the right direction.
  7. Caregivers often do a lot of lifting, pushing, and pulling. Be good to your back.
  8. Grieve for your losses.
  9. Seek support from other caregivers. There is great strength in knowing you are not alone.

Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
Burnout can be defined as exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress. Burnout may also be a subtle a simply no longer feeling “connected” to what it is we are doing.

  • Negative emotions:  Feelings that are often the least comfortable to feel. For example, anger, anxiety, dissatisfaction, guilt and irritability.
  • Interpersonal problems:  Conflict with others in the form of emotional outbursts, overreacting, hostility and social withdrawal.
  • Health problems:  Can include frequent insomnia, fatigue/exhaustion, headaches, backaches, lethargy, high blood pressure, lack of appetite.
  • Poor performance:  Less productive due to boredom, lack of enthusiasm, feelings of fear or an inability to concentrate or relax.
  • Substance abuse:  Marked increase in the consumption of alcohol and/or other drugs, cigarette smoking, caffeine and food.
  • Workaholism:  Working more hours due to feelings of inadequacy, believing that the more we work; the better we will feel.
  • Depression:  The suppression of emotions. We may be depressed if we notice an overall feeling of hopelessness and meaninglessness.
  • Loss of self-esteem:  A decrease in self-confidence.

Ways Caregivers can Spend Their “Time Off’ during Respite Care

  • Go to the movies
  • Read a book at a nearby park or browse a book store
  • Go on a short vacation
  • Attend a care-giving support group
  • Have someone else care for your love done while you retreat to another part of the house and watch TV, read a book, or take a nap
  • Take a walk or go on a scenic drive
  • Treat yourself to lunch at a restaurant with a friend
  • Visit a museum or art gallery
  • Get a massage/facial/manicure – do something for you
  • Take a fun class

Solutions to Dealing with Caregiver Burnout

  • Take care of yourself
  • Regularly feed your body nutritious foods
  • Get sufficient rest
  • Exercise routinely
  • Pay attention to your body’s signals of stress

Practice stress-reducing strategies

  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Progressive relaxation techniques
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Tai chi

Develop a strong support system

  • Surround yourself with friends/family by whom you feel supported.
  • Attend a support group where you can share your concerns and feelings.
  • Create a support/discussion group at work where you can share your concerns, while being willing to talk about your part in the problem and the solution.
  • Utilize your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to receive support/counseling or referrals for services that can assist you.
  • See a counselor or therapist if you are in need of more extensive mental health support.

The key to avoiding burnout is to continually seek balance in our lives. The more informed we are about our own issues with burnout, the better armed we will be to take care of ourselves. Consequently, the better job we do of taking care of our own needs, the more we can be physically, mentally, and emotionally available to those we are caring for.

Please contact Beloit Regional Hospice for more information regarding caregiver support.  877-363 7421 or outreach@beloitregionalhospice.com

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