Missy D’Agostino, LPN
Life can be overwhelming at times, can’t it? This is true for everyone. It is especially true for those who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Being a caretaker is an all-consuming challenge. We give and give, and in the process we simply neglect to care for ourselves. This can take quite a toll on our overall wellbeing. Caregiver burnout is a common condition that can be detrimental, yet is many times overlooked. Unlike a cold, where you notice obvious symptoms right away, the symptoms of caregiver burnout can creep up on you. They may go unnoticed until you find yourself in a moment of complete emotional upheaval. I call this meltdown mode. It’s helpful if we can notice the signs of caregiver burnout before we find ourselves at this point. If we truly want to continue as good caretakers, we need to know and respect our own limitations. We must remain healthy ourselves, to accomplish giving good care.
- Knowing is half of the battle. Here are some of the signs that a caretaker may be overwhelmed. It is critical to recognize if you or someone you know may be experiencing any of these:
- Increased fatigue
- Feeling helpless
- Change of eating habits
- Increased use of stimulants or alcohol
- Decreased work production
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
- Social isolation
Now that we know what to look for, what are some of the strategies we can implement to care for, or ward off burnout? First, it is important to have a support system. If not friends and family, then find a good support group. The Alzheimer’s Association will be able to let you know of meetings in your area. If there are others in your family that can share physically.
Maintain a healthy diet, and try to remain regularly active. Exercise will help you to be able to handle stress more efficiently. Pamper yourself once in a while. Possibly, treat yourself to a weekly massage or something else you find enjoyable. Do not neglect your own hobbies. You need to set aside time for yourself. This will require a conscious effort, but it needs to be done. Also, keep an active social life. Do not isolate yourself. Make time for friendships. Remember, you are no good to anyone else if your own health and well-being are suffering. Ask for help when you need it. You cannot do this alone. Take care of YOU at all costs! It is best for you and your loved one.