Accord­ing to the Nation­al Cen­ter on Care­giv­ing, a fam­i­ly care­giv­er (or infor­mal care­giv­er) is “an unpaid indi­vid­ual (for exam­ple, a spouse, part­ner, fam­i­ly mem­ber, friend, or neigh­bor) involved in assist­ing oth­ers with activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing and/or med­ical tasks.”  In the US, 85% of care­givers care for a rel­a­tive or loved one with 42% of those care­givers sup­port­ing an aging par­ent. Since ear­ly 2020, we have seen this vul­ner­a­ble aging pop­u­la­tion fall prey to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. As a result, those pro­vid­ing care for this group have also begun to fall prey to this virus’s demise in the form of care-fatigue. We’ve com­piled a toolk­it of some sim­ple resources to help the care­givers that are on the front­line of care for their loved ones avoid burnout.

5 Tools to Avoid Burnout

  1. Plan Your Communication

When tak­ing your loved one to any sort of appoint­ment, plan out what you hope to accom­plish while you are there. Make a check­list of what items you want to dis­cuss with the provider. Ask your loved one what they would like to talk about as well.  In addi­tion, keep your oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers informed about the care you are pro­vid­ing by estab­lish­ing a week­ly check-in whether through email or Face­time or phone call.

  1. Don’t Go It Alone

Pro­vid­ing dai­ly care can be immense­ly reward­ing but can also be a phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly exhaust­ing job. When the job seems big­ger than you can han­dle alone, do some research into com­mu­ni­ty resources for assis­tance. There are net­works of care­giv­ing agen­cies that can help with every­thing from per­son­al care to behav­ioral issues. Deter­mine what you can afford to pay for ser­vices and pri­or­i­tize those that are most need­ed for you to main­tain your own health.

  1. Self-Care is a Neces­si­ty, Not a Luxury

Have you heard the say­ing “you can­not fill some­one else’s cup if your own cup is emp­ty”? In order for you to con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing care for your loved ones, you must tend to your own care. This involves tak­ing reg­u­lar breaks through­out the day—maybe for a quick walk or some exercise—to clear your head and refo­cus your ener­gy. This can also include seek­ing out respite care so that your imme­di­ate fam­i­ly can go out for din­ner or even away for a few days. Self-care is a chance to recharge your bat­ter­ies so you are ful­ly able to care for others.

  1. Teach Them Tech

This may seem like a daunt­ing task, but teach­ing your aging loved one some easy tech­nol­o­gy tips can free up some time in your dai­ly sched­ule for oth­er press­ing tasks. Help them use Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home to check the weath­er or call a friend or even to set alarms and reminders. Anoth­er handy tech tool is intro­duc­ing them to the con­ve­nience and safe­ty of telemed­i­cine. Many elder­ly folks are unsure of tran­si­tion­ing to this kind of care, but with your sup­port, this can be a great resource for their phys­i­cal health appointments.

  1. Prac­tice Positivity

Frus­tra­tion and fatigue are easy traps to find your­self in when pro­vid­ing care for oth­ers. The way to best com­bat this is through find­ing ways to reframe your thoughts. The author of the Blue Zone series, Dan Buet­tner, trav­eled the world to study the hap­pi­ness of peo­ple in dif­fer­ent parts of the world and found that if you find a bal­ance of plea­sure, pur­pose, and pride in life, you can achieve hap­pi­ness even in tough, chal­leng­ing times. You can change the way you approach the care­giv­ing tasks in your day by seek­ing this bal­ance of the 3 P’s.

As the “new nor­mal” begins in our world, you can also begin a new approach to your role as a fam­i­ly care­giv­er. Com­mit to using these trusty tools for avoid­ing burnout. They are time-test­ed and will help you achieve the cor­rect, and hap­pi­ness-inspir­ing bal­ance that best serves both you and your loved ones.

Resources:

Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Retired Per­sons (AARP) “Care­giv­er Burnout: Steps for Cop­ing with Stress”

U.S. Admin­is­tra­tion on Aging—Elder­care Locator

Fam­i­ly Care­giv­er Alliance

Caring.com—Fam­i­ly Care­giv­er Basics

Care­giv­er Action Net­work—10 Tips for Fam­i­ly Caregivers