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8 Tips for Managing Family Caregiver Burnout

Family caregivers face a wide range of responsibilities, many of which they never anticipated undertaking. This new role can be overwhelming and stressful, and as a result, taking care of yourself often falls by the wayside.

From prioritizing your own self-care, setting boundaries, and enlisting the help of your community, here are our top tools and tips for managing family caregiver burnout and stress.
Elderly Lady with Caregiver

1. Reach Out for Help from Other Family Members

We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village” used in regards to raising children. However, it’s equally applicable to caring for parents and other family members in need of extra support.

The responsibility of family caregiving is often too much for one person to handle in the long-term. In order for you to manage your own stress levels and keep your mental health in check, it’s crucial that you loop in other family members (and in some cases, close friends) to get all the support you need.

The key to getting the help that you need is being as transparent as possible with your family members. Start off by making a list of all caregiving tasks. From there, you can decide which tasks best fit your skills and schedule, and then determine where other people in your community may be able to step in. For example, if your cousin is a talented home cook, they may be able to pitch in with meal prep a couple times a week.

Once you’ve identified the tasks and the people that would be a good fit, approach each individual with your plan to see if it works for them. Being clear and specific about how you and the family member you are taking care of need assistance, you’ll be able to get the support that you need.

2. Maintain Open Communication and Set Boundaries

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you are giving up your life to care for elderly parents. The reality is that you can’t completely set aside your needs, and it’s vital that you set clear boundaries with your parents to maintain your life outside of caregiving.

The first step in establishing boundaries with your loved one is being clear about what duties you (or other members in your community) will be taking care of, as well as what tasks your parent will still be in charge of. This ensures everyone is clear about what is expected of them.

Establishing a caregiving schedule will also help create concrete parameters. This will make it known when you’re available to help (either in person or over the phone), and will help you carve out the time you need to focus on your own priorities. Put this schedule on your loved one’s physical or digital calendar for their own reference.

Don't drain yourself providing care. Making sure you are rested and fresh allows you to better meet the needs of others.

3. Implement Long-Distance Care Strategies and Tools

It’s impossible to be everywhere at once. Even if you live relatively close to your parent, you aren’t always going to be available to care for them in person. By implementing a few strategies to ensure your loved one is getting the care they need (even when you aren’t by their side), you’ll be able to take some of the stress and worry off your plate.

For example, consider investing in a wearable medical alert system that allows the user to connect with a dispatcher when medical attention is needed. Electronic pill dispensers have also become more popular. Some can notify a caregiver if the user has taken their medication, while others will simply alert your parent that it’s time to take their pills.

Scheduling regular phone or video calls will also ensure you’re getting to check in with your parent on a regular basis. This will also give you peace of mind that they are doing well between your visits.

4. Prioritize Your Own Care on a Daily Basis

It’s understandably easy to put your own care on the backburner. However, by prioritizing everyone else’s needs over your own, you are putting yourself in the fast lane towards burnout. When your stress levels are amplified, you also aren’t able to show up as your best self as a caregiver. For both your own sake and the sake of the person you are caring for, you need to make your own wellness a number one priority.

To maintain your mental and physical wellbeing, you need to find ways to care for yourself on a daily basis. First and foremost, ensure you have your basic health needs covered. This includes eating a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, working out regularly, and staying on top of your doctor appointments.

It’s also important to find tools for managing stress levels. In addition to getting the rest you need and working out, you should turn to stress relieving activities multiple times a week (ideally daily!). This might look like meditating, journaling, going on walks, chatting with a friend, or working on an art project. The choices are endless – you just need to find what speaks to you.

5. Talk Through Your Feelings with a Trusted Third Party

On a similar note, it’s important to have a person that you can talk with about the challenges of caregiving. Ideally, this will be someone who is outside of the situation, like a licensed therapist or a trusted friend.

Many people deal with feeling trapped caring for an elderly parent, and overwhelmed with the sudden responsibility of looking after someone who once raised you. Some also have a hard time grappling with the reality that they don’t want to care for their elderly parents – which can be an uncomfortable truth to admit.

These thoughts are often paired with feelings of guilt, anguish, emotional conflict, and stress. Rest assured; this is all completely normal.

Talking through these feelings with someone can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health. Even if they aren’t able to fix any of your problems, having someone listen to your struggles can help you feel less isolated in the family caregiving experience.

6. Tap into Caregiver Support Resources

There are a myriad of resources available to equip you with the tools, education, and support you need to feel confident and prepared to handle your caregiving duties. Two groups worth looking into are:
  • Caregiver Action Network - A non-profit that provides peer support through social media platforms, as well as free education on caring for others and yourself.
  • Family Caregiver Alliance - A non-profit that digitally publishes a wide range of educational articles on topics related to caregiving.
There are even podcasts where experienced caregivers and caregiving professionals offer advice and support to listeners on the family caregiving journey. If you’re an avid podcast listener, consider downloading these shows:
  • Happy Healthy Caregiver - During this podcast, the host (a caregiving consultant) and her guests share first-hand knowledge and advice on handling caregiving challenges.
  • Parenting Up! - For a bit of humor, listen to this comedic podcast, where a comedian takes a truthful look at her journey as a caregiver to her parents.

Enlist family, friends, and even outside caregivers. You do not have to go it alone.

7. Utilize Respite Care or Other Community Resources

Sometimes, tapping into your network of family and friends isn’t enough. Rather than taking on the extra work yourself, look to the resources available in your community to get the extra assistance you need.

One option is to utilize respite care services through a local caregiving agency. A trained respite caregiver will be able to step in for short periods of time to temporarily relieve you of your caregiving duties. This ensures you are able to set aside the time you need to take care of your own matters (or in some cases, just take a much-needed break). At the same time, your loved one will get the care they need in the hands of a licensed professional.

Alternatively (or in conjunction with respite care service), look to your local community to see what programs or services may be available to you. Some places of worship have activities and programs for their senior members, such as organized meals or companionship services. If your loved one is a member of a fraternal organization, they too may have programs available.

Other services that may help take some of the work off your plate include adult day care programs, meal delivery programs (like Meals on Wheels), and local senior transportation services. Consider calling your local Elder Helpline through the Department of Elder Affairs to find additional community-based services in your area.

8. Consider Enlisting the Help of an Outside Agency

For many family caregivers, there comes a point where they realize that more intensive support from care professionals is needed. If the needs of your parent or loved one have progressed beyond your care abilities, consider enlisting the help of an outside agency to provide the assistance that they require.

It can understandably feel like a daunting step to take. However, there are agencies that can connect you with professional, licensed caregivers who can best tend to your parent’s needs, ensuring they are getting the highest quality of support possible.

Managing Stress and Burnout as a Family Caregiver

Being a family caregiver isn’t easy. Taking on this role without putting guardrails in place to protect your own mental wellbeing is a recipe for stress and eventual burnout. By implementing routines and steps to ensure both you and your loved one are getting the full support needed, you’ll be better equipped to provide the necessary care – while also maintaining your mental and physical health in the process.
Concierge Care is a Florida based nurse registry. Since 2013 our team has connected thousands of seniors with quality home care. We are available 24/7 and take a personal approach with every client. Let our family help yours find the perfect caregiver.
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Concierge Care is a caregiver referral service (not an agency). We connect clients with pre-background-screened, pre-credential-verified providers who operate independently and are not employees. Our nurse registry model supports consumer-directed care, where each person determines all aspects of their home care services.
Concierge Care is a caregiver referral service (not an agency). We connect clients with pre-background-screened, pre-credential-verified providers who operate independently and are not employees. Our nurse registry model supports consumer-directed care, where each person determines all aspects of their home care services.
Concierge Care is a caregiver referral service (not an agency). We connect clients with pre-background-screened, pre-credential-verified providers who operate independently and are not employees. Our nurse registry model supports consumer-directed care, where each person determines all aspects of their home care services.