Sunday, October 18, 2009

Caregiver Fatigue: Take Time for YOU

Well it's been awhile since my last post. As any of you who are helping to care for aging parents know...sometimes you get overwhelmed and lose focus. So this is probably a good time to talk about doing something for YOU.

Caregiver fatigue (also known as burnout) is a common problem for anyone who works in the health care field or cares for loved ones full or part time. In actuality this can apply to almost anyone at any time of their life. For example, in new mothers we attribute it to post partum depression or at the least sleep deprivation.

Whatever you term it as, the point is that you can't go full steam ahead for endless periods of time without taking a break. And you can't feel guilty that you need this break!!!! It's just a fact of life and you have to deal with it and need to plan for it. If you try to be a super hero and keep going despite the fatigue don't be surprised if things begin to go wrong.

You may become impatient, you may become a klutz, or make mental errors. Your ability to cope and handle any situation will be challenged to the limits. In reality, you put yourself at risk, and you put your elder at risk as well.

In order to best take care of someone else you MUST take care of YOU as well. And you need to ensure that you remain part of the solution and don't become part of the problem. Yes that means YOU. No one gets a pass on this one. Everyone needs to be sure to take some time for themselves.

So you need to plan for this either by making arrangements with other family members to spell you, or to hire someone for some respite care. And if other family members are unable or unwilling to help out, then they should help to shoulder the expense. And this may not be an easy thing to convince them of. Until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes, it may never seem as difficult as it really is.

Meanwhile, you need to do little things for yourself to minimize the fatigue as well. This can be as simple as taking a mental break several times a day. Walk outside, or go into a separate room and close the door. Take some deep breaths, close your eyes and escape on a mental vacation to your favorite places. Then stop and rethink the tasks at hand for the next few hours. How can you work smarter and not harder to accomplish your tasks and goals. What two things can you do at the same time so that you can sit for awhile or maybe get a nap?

Try to anticipate needs and save yourself some steps. When you make meals, make enough to freeze some for another day, or to feed your own family as well as your elders. Look for shortcuts that will save you time, but not cost you more in the long run.

Rest when you're tired, and make it be a rest period, not just a slow down. And get some time for you.