Taking care of your loved one is rewarding, but you've got to watch for signs that you're getting stressed out. Get the help you need to avoid a full-blown case of caregiver burnout.
Some symptoms that show you're getting close to emotional overload:
- You find yourself withdrawing from your friends and family.
- You lose interest in activities you used to enjoy.
- You feel blue, irritable, or hopeless.
- You notice you're losing or gaining weight.
- Your sleep patterns are changing.
- You get sick more often.
- You feel like you want to hurt yourself or the person you're caring for.
What You Can Do
Here are some steps to keep burnout at bay:
Find someone you trust. Talk to a friend, co-worker, or neighbor about your feelings and frustrations.
Set reasonable goals. Accept that you might need help from others.
Be realistic. Set reasonable expectations about your loved one's disease, especially conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, which get more severe as time goes on.
Set aside time for yourself. Even if it's just an hour or two, it's worth it. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury, it's a need.
Talk to a therapist, social worker, or clergy member. They're trained to give advice on a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
Use respite care services. They can give caregivers like you a temporary break. The help can range from a few hours of in-home care to a short stay in a nursing home or assisted-living facility.
Know your limits. Make sure you do a reality check and don't push yourself too hard.
Educate yourself. The more you know about your loved one's condition, the better care you can give.
Play up the positive. Remember to lighten up when you can. Use humor to help deal with everyday stresses.
Stay healthy. Eat right and get plenty of exercise and sleep.
Accept your feelings. It's normal to have negative feelings such as frustration and anger. It doesn't mean you're a bad person or a bad caregiver.
Join a caregiver support group. Share your feelings and experiences with others in the same situation as you. It can help you manage stress, locate helpful resources, and stay connected with others.