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3 Tips For Reducing Caregiver Burnout when Caring for a Person with Alzheimer's

March 17, 2020

Editorial Review Phoebe Stoye, A.B. in Neurobiology, Harvard College
Clinical Review Felicia Greenfield, MSW, LCSW
The Penn Memory Center

Asking for help is humbling in any context but, particularly when you are a caregiver, it can feel like an admission of failure to admit you need support from family, friends, or professionals. If you're feeling burned out or fatigue as a caregiver, you're not alone. Caregiving is an admirable and necessary role in society, but no one can do it without support.

    1. Don't allow guilt to stop you from asking. When you have to make a change, anything from hiring a safety sitter or moving your loved one to an assisted living facility can feel like you're giving up. Guilt comes naturally when we have become accustomed to being our loved ones' main care provider. But don't allow this feeling to stop you from pursuing the help you need!

    Services like respite care (short term residency programs in long term care settings) and home health care agencies are designed exactly for this purpose so that your loved one will be in good hands, and you don't experience caregiver burnout. By allowing yourself time to heal and rest (as this former caregiver recommends after battling depression), you are ensuring that you will have lasting endurance to continue providing care for your loved one.

    2. Sooner is better than later. Don't wait! Asking for help is uncomfortable—it's admitting that we can't do it alone. It hurts our pride. We all procrastinate, leaving our most unpleasant tasks for last—but often these are the most important things on our to-do list! The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you'll end up in a situation where you can't be the caregiver and must find help due to some form of emergency. It's wise to have someone ready as a backup who knows your loved one and their needs, and are able and willing to help in your absence. Then, when an emergency comes (as it always does!), you'll replace fatigue and panic with a plan.
    3. Make it a habit. How does the saying go? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? This saying has valuable implications for the caregiver who is feeling fatigued or burned out and needs extra support. Scheduled, consistent breaks during the day, during the week, and during the month are worth the extra effort required to arrange them. Involve family members or friends (or even neighbors as this caregiver shares!) to cover smaller amounts of time away. A little goes a long way when it comes to your need for rest, emotionally and physically. Better to take one day off every week than to be a caregiver 24/7 and suddenly find yourself injured, fatigued, or experiencing caregiver burnout.

For those of you who are caregivers reading this, thank you for all you do. You are so valuable to your family. Your loved one may not be able to remember this gift of your time and energy, but it has a lasting impact. Don't be guilty, afraid, or too proud to ask for help. Instead, be content in knowing your own limitations. There is help available—just reach out and ask.