Caregiving: Taking Care of Yourself and Preventing Burnout
It’s incredible to be able to help a person you love be cared for while their health slowly declines. It’s also a lot of effort and no gratitude can be expected. You’re incredible for everything you are doing even though it may never feel like enough.
All caregivers need to remember the Oxygen Mask Rule: Put your mask on before putting the mask on for others. Translation: you can’t help anyone else after you passed out.
Are you exhausted or burned-out? Here are some signs:
- Feeling helpless
- Alone or isolated
- Relying on drugs or alcohol to relax
- Sleeping – too little or too much
What You Can Do
First, take care of your mental health by contacting a mental health professional, asking HD Reach about our Therapy Path or asking your primary health doctor for help in your area.
Seek support – support can be found in many ways – through prayer, talking to family, friends or professionals.
Say YES to offers of help – let someone else pick-up groceries, stay home with a loved one while you go out or take a bath or read a book, bring you a special meal, take you out for a hot fudge sundae.
Admit you’re not perfect and stop feeling guilty – feeling angry and frustrated with the person you are caring for is natural. Taking care of your needs and having fun are okay.
Take care of your body – rest and exercise are both important. Exhaustion leads to illness, stress and irritability. Exercise gives you a break, combats depression and helps you maintain health. Get your check-ups and take care of your health issues. Worrying about who will take care of your loved one if you can’t doesn’t help; taking care of yourself does.
Learn about the stages of HD and what the symptoms look like – the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. With HD affecting the mind and body in many ways, symptoms can easily be misunderstood. If this happens, the person may not receive the right care and the problems can get worse. Check out HD Meet Ups and education conferences.
Take a break – when you have a chance to recharge it’s easier to handle frustrations and challenges. Try bringing your loved one to adult day care or have someone else spend time in your home so you can get away.
Stay connected with people who are important to you – it's stressful feeling like you are in a never-ending care giving role especially when no one is telling you they appreciate your efforts. Keep up your connections to life outside of your care giving role.
Laugh - everyday. Watch something funny, read something humorous, talk to someone who makes you laugh. Finding humor in life’s situations renews the spirit.
Are you holding yourself to unrealistic expectations? See the “Admit you’re not perfect” if any of these phrases apply to you:
- If I don’t do it, no one will.
- I promised I would always take care of him/her.
- If I take good care of her/him, I will receive the love, attention and respect I deserve.
- I promised I would never let him/her live in a long-term care facility.
Figure out what you can change and what you can’t - it’s frustrating, but we know people with HD are unable to learn and change their ways. Therefore, you can only control how you react to a situation and how you find ways to release stress. Will five minutes with a great cup of tea, or a few moments in the garden, or shooting free-throws restore your sense of calm? Identify what works best for you.