Caring For Caregivers
Caregivers Need Care Too!
It’s a big task. The roles and responsibilities you have as a caregiver can be overwhelming. The hours spent in caregiving often leave little time for leisure and getting away for a while. Illinois Extension wants you to know you aren't alone. We have resources to support you so you don't become ill while caring for your loved one.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout
The demands of caregiving can continue indefinitely, it’s important to understand the warning signs of stress and learn how to cope with pressures you may be experiencing.
- No matter what you do, it doesn’t seem like enough.
- You no longer have any time to be alone for even a little while.
- Your caregiving duties interfere with your work and personal life.
- You find yourself overeating or undereating, abusing drugs or alcohol, or your taking your frustrations out on your care receiver.
- You feel exhausted, resentful, frustrated, and angry all the time.
Recognizing how much you can do is the first step to managing the situation. And having a plan of action for seeking help will assist you in providing the best possible care. Acknowledging your limits helps to define how much care you can provide before additional or full- time help is needed. For example, your limits might be when the care receiver needs care 24-hours a day, becomes incontinent, or requires lifting. Other examples of when to ask for help might be when caregiving interferes with your emotional and physical health, family relationships, or employment. Read more: Recognizing my Own Limitations.
It’s so easy to become isolated you lose sight of your own life when you provide care for someone else. As a caregiver, you may feel overwhelmed with responsibilities. Maybe you believe that:
- You must provide all the care
- Your family won’t help
- It is a sign of weakness to ask for help
- You can’t afford to get help
- The care receiver will get upset
These barriers can lead to distress, loneliness and exhaustion. You can become a second patient if you aren’t careful.
Make a Plan
After acknowledging your limits, it is important to make a plan. What can you and others do to help the caregiving transitions go more smoothly? If appropriate, ask the care receiver and others involved in the caregiving process to give input into the plan. Begin by making a list of tasks that are beyond your limitations. List them in the space below. Then, think of family members, friends or local services for each task.
Overcoming barriers to feel comfortable and asking for help may require you to make some changes in your attitude toward your responsibilities. This can be difficult, but it is necessary. Begin by realizing that you may not be able to do it all. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. You need to care for yourself as well as the care receiver. By seeking help as early as possible, it can give the care receiver time to get used to others and possibly feel less dependent on you. We provide helpful tips: Asking for Help.
Steps in overcoming barriers
- Identify what kind of help is needed.
- Find out what resources are available.
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Acknowledge that you can’t do it all yourself.
How do you find help? Family members, friends, agencies and support groups are vital for providing assistance.
- Share your situation and concerns.
- Ask for help for specific tasks. Don’t expect others to know what you need.
- Speak with respect: say, “I need help.” not “You need to help me.”
- Begin seeking assistance when your needs are smaller.
- Look for help from local agencies and services. Begin by contacting the Illinois Department on Aging Senior Helpline at 1-800-252-8966. They will provide contact information for local services and support groups.
- Seek help through a local caregiver support group. They can provide the emotional support, practical information, and friendships that can be vital during this time in your life.
Respite care is an opportunity for the caregiver to get away from caregiving duties for a few hours or a few days. People can come into the home, or the care receiver can be taken to another location to receive care. Often you can find respite programs in hospitals, nursing homes, home health care agencies, adult day-care centers, religious organizations, and other agencies. Read more: Take a Break: Finding Respite in Caregiving.
There are times when caregiver stress cannot be avoided, but it can be managed. Here are some ways to help you maintain your health and well-being. Read tips at Take a Break: Take Care of Yourself.
- Express your feelings to someone. Caregiver support groups are available in many communities. Caregivers can share their feelings and exchange ideas and resources.
- Rid yourself of the mental attitude that you have to do it all.
- Delegate responsibilities to other family members or to service providers in the community.
- Take care of your physical health. Eat balanced meals and exercise regularly.
- Continue the social activities you enjoy.
- Keep involved with groups and hobbies. This is not the time to lose contact with friends and family members.
- Take time for yourself. Schedule time away from your caregiving duties. Don’t be caught with a “martyr complex,” thinking you are the only person who can be the caregiver.
- Avoid negative ways of coping with stress. Overeating, alcohol, drug misuse, and directing your stress at someone else are destructive ways of dealing with stress problems.
- Encourage the care receiver to be as independent as possible. Work together to solve problems and figure out ways the care receiver can help himself.
- Ask for help. Attempting to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is an impossible task.
Beginning your caretaker journey.
- Aging Parents & You by Eugenia Anderson-Ellis, Mastermedia Limited, 1993.
- A Survival Guide for Family Caregivers by Jo Horne, CompCare Publishers, 1991.
- Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents- 3rd Edition by Claire Berman, Holt Paperbacks, 2005
- How to Care for Aging Parents- 3rd edition by Virginia Morris, Workman Publishing Company, 2014.
- Taking Care of Aging Family Members by Wendy Lustbader and Nancy Hooyman, the Free Press, 1993.