Five Ways to Help Prevent Family Caregiver Burnout

Thank you.

These two simple words can mean a lot. We use “Thank you” randomly in polite society. We thank the cashiers, waiters, and other service people we interact with – as we should, but what about our friends and family members? Do we thank them for the service they provide? Do our words and action let them know that they are appreciated?

Appreciation is especially important when a friend or family member is acting as caregiver to a loved one who needs support. It’s National Family Caregiver Month. Thanksgiving is fast approaching along with the holiday giving season. It’s a perfect opportunity to let the caregivers in our families know that they are appreciated.

Family members who are helping seniors to stay in their own homes or who have taken their older loved ones in to live with them are susceptible to stress and depression. Let them know that you notice their efforts – a little bit of appreciation may go a long way toward raising their spirits and may help to prevent caregiver burnout.

Five Ways to Show Your Appreciation

1. Know what the caregiver does. In other words, make sure to find out (or think about) exactly what services the caregiver in your life provides. One way to get an idea of what a caregiver does is to sit and make a list. Caregivers do things during the day, often without thinking about it themselves. A list will help other family members know and appreciate the care that is being provided for a loved one, help caregivers to put their efforts in perspective, and help anyone who provides respite to keep the same schedule.

If you know what services someone is providing, it’s that much easier to see the value that they are adding to your life. Particularly in the holiday season, we tend to thank our mail carriers, paper deliverers, and others who add value. We shouldn’t forget the people who are part of our lives every day. Some seniors and others being cared for may not remember to say thank you, or may not be able to. It’s the responsibility of the people in the caregivers’ lives to make sure they know they’re appreciated and to actually say, “Thank you”.

2. Arrange to provide some time off. Time off. Respite. Relief. Vacations are a regular benefit of most jobs because employers realize that employees need time away to get refreshed so they can continue to perform at peak levels. Family members may not realize that caring for a parent or other loved one requires work, but it does (refer to the list). Caregivers need time to get away, run errands, spend quality time with other family members, take care of their own health, or just sleep. Show appreciation on behalf of your loved one by making sure the person caring for them is getting regular breaks. You can fill in or arrange for respite care through a reputable service. Another option is to give gift certificates for respite that the caregiver can redeem as desired.

3. Provide a meal. When someone we know is sick, has given birth, or has suffered a loss or other crisis, we tend to go into nurture mode. Food is one of the first things most people think to provide, because we all know that cooking is not a priority at these times, but people still need to eat. When the “crisis” is long term, we tend to forget the importance of food. We can show appreciation to family caregivers by feeding them and their families on occasion. Whether you drop by with a meal, send restaurant gift certificates, or have pizza delivered, the caregiver’s load will be lightened just a bit.

4. Talk. Empathize. Listen. Find out what’s on the caregiver’s mind. People may not openly discuss the things that concern them, particularly if they feel guilty about their thoughts. If you do some research on issues that concern caregivers, you can ask pointed questions or bring the conversation around to specific topics as the situation warrants. Show appreciation to a family caregiver by offering an ear, a shoulder, or a sounding board. There are links to several resources below that will give family members a starting point for understanding what caregivers think, and helping caregivers to realize that others share their thoughts.

5. Take some responsibility for care and support decisions. Once you know what the caregiver’s concerns are, do what you can to help. You know the list; you know the worries; take some time to find out what would help most and then do it. Your caregiver will appreciate the support. You should also remain concerned about your caregiver. Watch for signs of stress or burnout. Help caregivers to realize that their own needs are important and that they have to look after themselves.

It’s National Family Caregiver Month.

Make sure you show appreciation to the person or people who provide care for the seniors in your life. If you are the care provider, thank you. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. Take care of yourself.

Resources for Caregiver Support – Some associations and blogs that focus on (or are written by) caregivers

Newsletter – November’s newsletter from A Servant’s Heart Care Solutions contains links to several resources for caregivers: “Preventing Caregiver Burnout“.

National Family Caregivers Association – Provides education and support for family caregivers.

Aging Parents Authority – Blog written by caregivers providing information on elder care.

The Caregiver – Blog written by a caregiver providing information of use to caregivers.

 

At A Servant’s Heart Senior Care, we provide professional and trustworthy care for seniors living at home. For more information call us toll-free at 800-777-4750 to find out more about how our full-service, CAHSAH-certified home care aide organization can help you.

Originally posted 2008-11-23 20:43:09.