The Lonely Caregiver
by Brandee Cowley, RN BSN, Apostolic Christian Skylines Home Care Services
Too often we hear from family caregivers that they struggle with loneliness and isolation. They tell us they feel trapped in the caregiver role and are carrying the load for other family members with little help, support or appreciation. They are caught in a stressful situation that can lead to burnout. This article draws on caregiving stress and burnout experts to offer some ideas on how to avoid caregiver burnout.
- Put your own physical needs first.
Make it a priority to get enough to eat (stay away from junk food), enough sleep and some exercise. Find time to relax. Pay attention to your own medical needs and never cancel a medical appointment without rescheduling it. If you’re not healthy it is harder to help your loved one to be healthy. Follow the airlines’ example: put your own oxygen mask on first.
- Stay connected with your friends.
Stay in touch with your friends; get together whenever you can. Social media can be a good way for you and your friends to stay involved in each other’s’ lives. Isolation increases stress.
- Get organized.
Make a master list of all the care-related activities you perform and when you do them: daily, weekly + day(s) of the week, etc. Use this list every day to make a list of what you want to accomplish that day. And forgive yourself if life gets in the way of completing a low-priority activity.
- Ask for help.
Often family members who were involved at the beginning become scarce or unresponsive as time goes on and attempts to re-involve them fail.
When you ask a family member for help, use your activities list to make it specific: what, when, how long and how frequently. “Can you take dad to his follow-up appointment with Dr. Smith next Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.? The appointment should only last 30 minutes,” is more likely to succeed than “I’m swamped and I need more help.”
- Find resources in the community.
If you feel like you’re drowning in caregiving, look for a life ring in the community. If budget is an issue, volunteers from churches or local civic groups may be able to assist with cooking, yard work, snow shoveling and local transportation.
If you are overwhelmed dealing with your loved one’s medical care providers, consider bringing in a geriatric care manager to coordinate all aspects of your loved one’s care. Use the locator at aginglifecare.org to find a certified geriatric care manager.
Home care aides and homemakers can pick up many of your caregiving responsibilities. Arrangements are typically made according to your needs and so need not be expensive.
Religious community can be a great source of information about help. If yours has a parish nurse or someone in a similar role, they can be an excellent resource and may be able to connect you with volunteer help in the community.
If your loved one cannot be left alone: Ask your pharmacy if they offer home delivery of prescriptions and other necessities. Your grocer may also offer online shopping and home delivery.
- Take a break.
A friend, relative or volunteer may be able to give you a few hours of respite (and your loved one may benefit from seeing a different face). For a weekend or vacation break, a local home care company or assisted living facility may be the best answer. It is a good idea to pre-qualify an agency or facility so you have a plan in place when an unexpected opportunity occurs.
- Keep family channels open.
Use family meetings or a professional family mediator to resolve conflicts. Try to remain positive and keep the focus on caring for the person you love.
Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. Offers no-charge caregiver support services. Call the Family Caregiver Information and Assistance Specialist at (309) 674-2071.
Bradley University Counseling, Research & Training Clinic. Offers no-charge caregiver support groups. Call (309) 677-3189.
AC Skylines Home Care provides in–home care and nursing services. For more information and a no–charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689–5343 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.
Apostolic Christian Skylines’ continuing care retirement community offers senior living options ranging from independent living to skilled nursing care. For more information, call Apostolic Christian Skylines at (309) 683-2500 or send email to email@example.com. Visit www.acskylines.org or Facebook.com/acskylines.