Categorized | Family Care

Avoiding caregiver burnout

By Jeannette Sheehan

Caregiving is a balancing act. In an age where many of us are burning the candle at both ends, we often prioritize caring for ourselves at the bottom of our list. We must recognize that we need to take time for ourselves in order to be a better caregiver to those depending on us, as well as those simply living with us.

Stress has become a norm for so many people. Burnout often follows when a person doesn’t allow others to help or find ways to incorporate time for themselves in their day.

The challenges of caregiving are often only spoken about among those who share the same challenges and even then, it is rare that people admit to it. Sometimes we feel we need to do things ourselves. As burnout approaches you may not notice it. Sometimes it is those around us who point it out. Or you may recognize that you are feeling stressed but feel you don’t have the time to talk to someone about it.

Some signs of caregiver burnout include:

•Feeling overwhelmed;

•Feelings of resentment;

•Inability to focus;

•Inability to relax;

•Short tempered, over reacting;

•Being on the verge of tears or crying often over simple little things;

•Loss of interest in work, hobbies or social interactions.

The number one way to combat burnout is to take time for yourself. That means sharing the caregiving, whether with another family member or friend, or through a home care agency for a few hours of respite care.

In addition, maintain a healthy diet, limiting the amount of sugary snacks and alcohol. Find ways to save time for yourself including utilizing conveniences like online grocery shopping and delivery services. For a small fee, you save on gas and gain time for yourself.

While having a few minutes for yourself might mean you try to catch up on your own chores, it’s important to use some time to focus on you. Taking just 15 minutes can leave you refreshed. Consider using respite time to:

•Relax with a good book;

•Get out and walk/exercise in the fresh air to clear your head;

•Laugh — find humor in books, TV or audiotapes. Laughter is one of the best medicines, allowing us to release tension and feel better;


•Catch up with old friends by phone or in person;

•Spend time with your pet(s);

•Pamper yourself (massage, haircut, etc).

Caregiving is a wonderful opportunity to give back to your loved ones. To be the best caregiver it is essential that you take time for yourself as well as those around you. It may feel selfish but is a requirement for success as a caregiver.

Jeannette Sheehan, MSN, RN and a board certified nurse practitioner, is founder and owner of ABC Home Healthcare Professionals, 233 Albion St., Wakefield. She can be reached at 781-245-1880 or online at


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