If you know a family caregiver, you know how exhausted and overwhelmed they usually are. They often feel like they lack control over what is happening and that they have too much to do. Taking care of others full time can take a severe toll on their mental health if they don’t have help.
With help, they will be able to find a balance in their hectic schedule. The caregiver will have a chance to experience joy and hope again. Without help, those who give so much to others won’t have time to do everything. Indeed, they often have many things on their plate, including the following:
- giving care to others
Unfortunately, many family caregivers find that their old friends seem to disappear. They don’t want to stick around when their friend is too busy to do the things they used to do. It is important to remember that this does not mean they don’t care; they don’t know how to offer support.
They need friends and loved ones, though, and people to support them and be there for them. Even if you have been an absent friend since they became a caregiver, it isn’t too late to change. They’ll enjoy the company and support even if they haven’t seen you in a long time.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Most caregivers find caring for their loved one rewarding, but it is also stressful. When they don’t get a break, it impacts their mental health and only gets worse as time goes on. It affects their health, relationships, and emotional well-being.
After some time of experiencing burn out, it can affect the person being cared for, as well. It isn’t just for the person giving the care you are offering help, it’s for the person receiving care, too. The caregiver’s health and well-being are just as important as the other persons, and they often go hand-in-hand.
Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
They don’t normally tell anyone when they are experiencing burnout. They suffer in silence because they don’t want to put a burden on anyone else. There are some burnout signs and symptoms you can watch for, though.
- feeling run-down or exhausted
- difficulty sleeping
- health problems
- difficulty focusing
- feeling resentful
- increase in the consumption of alcohol
- smoking when they didn’t before
- neglecting themselves or their responsibilities
- cutting back or quitting leisurely activities
- lack of life satisfaction
- inability to relax
- feeling hopeless or helpless
As you can see, the symptoms of burnout are intense. If you can get ahead of them, you can help prevent burnout. You should step in immediately, especially if you already recognize many of the symptoms on this list.
Tips for Helping Family Caregivers
1. Listen to The Person’s Needs
Sometimes, they need someone they can vent to and express their feelings. They don’t need you to solve their problems for them. They need someone to listen to them.
Do not offer advice unless they solicit it, because that can be frustrating to them. Instead, spend the time listening and only chime in with sounds or comments to let them know you’re still listening.
By being fully engaged in this way, they’ll know that you truly care. Keep in mind that people tend to know when you aren’t fully listening. So, don’t tell them they can count on you if you aren’t fully engaged.
2. Avoid Being Negative or Telling Agonizing Tales
Someone who is going through this situation doesn’t want or need to hear about other instances. Although you may believe you are simply making conversation, it could cause worry and stress for them. Unless you have something positive or comforting to say, please keep it to yourself.
3. Ask What You Can Do to Help
If they deny your help at first, tell them you are helping anyway. This person will struggle with asking for and accepting help, even when they truly need it. Offer to do whatever they need because there is quite a bit on their plate.
Avoid saying things like, “let me know if you need some help”, because they may never tell you anything. Instead, ask them specifically what they need.
They often have many errands you can run for them, including a trip to the library or post office. They might also need to get the car washed or perform an oil change. Other errands you could run for them, including going grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions.
Household chores are another task that they may need help with. From raking leaves to shoveling snow, there is always yard work to do. Otherwise, you could help with cleaning or dusting things around the house or take care of computer problems.
You could help them with regular maintenance on their HVAC appliances or changing the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Another option for helping them is updating or fixing the décor in their home to help them enjoy it more.
A few other options include walking their dog or taking their pets to the vet. You can help plan their meals or take their kids to do fun activities for a while.
Additionally, you can help them with carpooling or taking over when they have events they want to attend. Whatever help you are ready and willing and able to offer, they will be appreciative. Plus, it will help them avoid burnout.
4. Don’t Second Guess the Tough Decisions
If you second guess their decisions, they will feel judged, which will only stress them out more. This means keeping negative stories or thoughts to yourself. You don’t know the reason they have made the decisions, so support them through all of it.
5. Give The Person Space Whenever They Need It
Don’t continually nag them to go out, and don’t push to spend time together if they’d rather be alone. Sometimes a caregiver needs alone time so that they can regroup and de-stress. Watch out for uncharacteristic isolation, however, because they can be harmful and have severe consequences.
6. Bring Food to the Household
Whether you bring a full meal, a dessert, or just finger foods, they will be undeniably grateful. If the food can be frozen, that is even better because they can use it whenever they need it. Even a fresh dish to eat right away is great, however, because they often neglect themselves.
7. Take The Caregiver Out for a Break
Help them find someone to take over their duties for a little bit, and then take them out. Please make sure the person you help them choose is trustworthy, of course. If they are worried the entire time, they won’t enjoy their experience of being out.
You can take them shopping or out for a meal. Another option is to take the caregiving person to get their hair or nails done. You could also take them to a fun event or anything else you think they might enjoy.
8. Don’t Cause More Work for Those Who Work So Hard
Causing more work for them will only cause more stress and overwhelmed feeling. One instance of creating more work for them would be telling them you’re bringing people over to their home. Additionally, don’t have them cook for you or clean up after you.
Even when you continually tell them not to go through any trouble, they will anyway. Instead, ask your friend when a good time would be before simply dropping in or springing visitors on them. When you visit them, especially if you are bringing others with you, be sure to take care of all preparations.
9. Don’t Exclude The Caregiver from Your Life
They will frequently decline invitations, but you should invite them anyway. It will make them feel uplifted if they know you thought of them. Plus, when things are happening in your life, be sure to tell them, so they don’t find out from another source.
When you do, invite them somewhere, help them find help if they need it. Finding someone to help with the care is sometimes the reason the person might turn down invitations in the first place.
If they can’t come when you have invited them, don’t give them a guilt trip. Sometimes they are too exhausted to come, and other times they don’t have the help. Making them feel bad will only make their situation worse.