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How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout with Respite Care

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woman experiencing caregiver burnout

Caregivers give so much of themselves, but this can lead to physical and emotional caregiver burnout. When your loved one relies on your care, it is essential to find ways to avoid caregiver burnout. Today, our experts share our tips for reducing the risk of caregiver burnout and finding help through respite care.

Caregiver Burnout Stats

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming and lead to fatigue, stress, depression and poor health.

  • 17% of caregivers feel their health in general has gotten worse as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.
  • The well-being index composite score for working caregivers was also significantly lower than the 70.2 among non-caregivers.
  • 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with about a quarter to half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression.
  • Caring for persons with dementia is reported to impact a person’s immune system for up to 3 years after their caregiving experience ends, thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.

*Statistics from Family Caregiver Alliance

Caregiver Burnout Symptoms

The symptoms of caregiver burnout can include:

  • Withdrawal from activities and social interaction
  • Feeling irritable, hopeless, and helpless
  • Changes in appetite (or weight, or both)
  • Sleep problems/changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often/easily (or taking longer to get better)
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt the person you’re caring for or yourself
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Increased use of alcohol or medications

Solutions for Caregiver Burnout

  1. Support groups and/or counseling can be an important outlet for caregiver to discuss their struggles and work through solutions. It may be difficult to share feelings (especially those that bring up feelings of guilt) with relatives. Caregivers may feel their partner or friends don’t want to hear any more “complaints”, so it’s important to have an outlet to share issues like role confusion, hopelessness and stress.
  2. Education/training can help caregivers handle various caregiving tasks with increased confidence. 78% of caregivers report needing more help and information with a number of specific caregiving topics. We offer special tips in our monthly newsletter and many caregiver organizations offer newsletters, blogs, videos and training courses.
  3. Technology and physical tools (assistive devices, for example) can make the caregiving process easier. Here are a few must-have caregiver technologies and some great caregiver life hacks. A geriatric care manager can evaluate your environment and caregiving situation to make targeted suggestions and help you access tools to make your job easier.
  4. Respite care is perhaps the #1 weapon to fight against caregiver burnout. It is essential that caregivers take a break (and know they can!). Respite care can give you a regular break to run errands, attend medical appointments, continue a favorite activity or spend some time relaxing. Respite care may also be employed for vacations or special breaks, and can be done via in-home caregivers or a stay at an assisted living or nursing facility offering respite care. Get our EasyLiving Respite Care Checklist for help preparing.

Contact our eldercare experts online or at 727-447-5845 for help in fighting caregiver burnout and finding great, affordable respite care!

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Five Tips for Successful Caregiver Respite

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caregiver for elderly Mom

Who can you trust to take care of your dear loved one while you take a vacation or attend a family event? How can you get other tasks accomplished as a full-time caregiver for an elderly parent or spouse? Caregivers need to rest and recharge, and there are many times when necessity pulls a caregiver away from their care recipient as well.

Respite is defined as a period of rest or a break. For caregivers, this might mean a vacation or taking a few days to attend an important event, or daily or weekly opportunities to continue with outside activities, run errands, etc. But, guilt and anxiety often keep caregivers from taking a vacation or even a short break. Or, you might have had a horrible experience in the past trying to take such a break and now you feel it is not worth the trouble. Over the years, we have worked with many families to arrange for respite with the peace of mind that everything is set up to go as smoothly as possible. We promise, it can be done!

Here are our eldercare experts’ tips on setting up a successful caregiver respite:

  1. Put a trustworthy, experienced care team in to place. This is the piece to handle most carefully. If you have loved ones or friends who will help out, consider support they might need and challenges they might face. Just because you handle everything for Mom does not mean your sister will be so well-equipped to do so. You might want to spend a few days together first going over things and having your loved one observe what you do before deciding if additional support is needed. If you hire caregivers to help, research carefully and know the reputation of the company (and, yes, we do emphasize company, because we believe the protections and backup you get with a company is the best way to ensure successful care). Talk to the company about how they will handle different situations and what they do to ensure their caregivers understand how to take care of your loved one.
  2. Think through your routine and what someone coming in fresh would need to know to do your job. There are a lot of things you do for your loved one that you might not even think about anymore. It really helps substitute caregivers to understand the routine and little things about your loved one and their care.
  3. Get organized. Make sure you leave a list of contact information, a complete medication list and history. You will need to leave copies of advance directives and local/alternative contacts (particularly if you are traveling someone where you might be inaccessible or difficult to reach due to timing). Can substitute caregivers easily access everything they might need while you are gone?
  4. Consider having a “manager”. If you are doing a short, local break this may not be much of an issue, but for longer trips and times when you may be further away (and to ensure you get a “real” break), you should consider putting someone else temporarily “in charge”. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be contacted if there’s a major emergency, but it can be useful to empower someone to oversee things and handle any immediate needs that arise. You will need to talk to providers ahead of time about permission for someone else to be involved with care (i.e. if your sister is coming in to help but does not usually attend your Mom’s doctor’s appointments). You can also hire a geriatric care manager for the respite period; they are experienced in handling this sort of situation and can give you great peace of mind. The care manager can also help you prepare and anticipate potential concerns to make things go smoothly.
  5. Practice. It may help to take a quick break or try to just run some errands locally to “test the waters”. This gives substitute caregivers the chance to come up with any questions and you and your loved one the chance to get comfortable with the situation (or realize something that needs to be changed). Regular respite can be a good idea for you to keep revitalized as a caregiver, but also to help you and your loved one build a relationship with a care team. We’ve found this to be a great solution for families. We have worked with many over the years where we help out regularly so that they can enjoy their breaks with someone they know and trust is in place to manage things.

You can get more great tips from EasyLiving’s “What is Respite Care?” post (including a checklist you can use to set up and prepare for respite care). Contact our Senior Care Consultant to set up respite care, hire a care manager to help organize and oversee your break and for any eldercare concerns or questions.

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