How to Prevent Burnout When Caring for a Loved One

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by Jaime Christmas |

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Today, I’d like to talk about caregiver burnout, which extends beyond the physical burnout of completing various caregiving tasks. It also entails more than feeling helpless when a caregiver is unable to meet the expectations of the rest of the family.

Caregiver burnout stems from the gradual mental and emotional toll that caregiving has on the caregiver. It slowly creeps in over time until the caregiver realizes one day that they’ve had enough. It’s like an ill-gotten seed of despair that grows within and is watered by the knowledge that no matter how much that person may want to escape, they can’t. They are committed to seeing it through to the very end. It’s like a cold breeze of sadness that envelops them when they acknowledge that at some point, they will be able to let go, but not because they chose to.

In 2013, my husband, Aubrey, was diagnosed with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, and I am his caregiver.

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No matter where in your journey I am meeting you, understand that my intention here is never to dismay or intimidate. I write because I want to be honest about what life is like for me, in the hopes that my sharing will, at the very least, help others acknowledge the fact that none of us are perfect. These challenges are real, and professing them enables us to process our feelings and thoughts, especially the difficult ones.

I discovered that for the longest time, I was overestimating the chances of a negative outcome while underestimating my own ability to cope. It was only through sieving and confronting my negative thoughts that I was able to look for constructive solutions.

It has taken me almost eight years to find my own rhythm to tap dance to on the caregiving stage, but better late than never. Sometimes I still trip, but I injure myself less frequently.

Following are a few of my favorite practices. If you are a caregiver, too, perhaps you will find them helpful.

Find your zone

Stay true to who you are as a person. You are more than just a caregiver. You have your own needs and goals, first and foremost.

Athletes have the ability to be “in the zone.” This involves becoming totally immersed in something they enjoy and feel deeply satisfied with. Activities that enable you to cultivate a sense of appreciation and gratitude can help you get in the zone.

Today, look for avenues that allow you to be creative and foster a sense of optimism, and which you love doing. Writing, hanging out with good friends, and cooking for my family are what I most enjoy, and they get me in the zone.

Your body is a temple

Emotional well-being and physical health are linked. As a caregiver, your shoulders must be big enough to carry the burdens. But they must be strong and healthy enough, too.

Health is something you own. We must take good care of ourselves. I aim to exercise regularly, get enough sleep, have a well-balanced and nutritious diet, cut down on alcohol, and never resort to drugs as a means of escape. Our body is our temple, and we can begin by caring for it.

Reach up and reach out

When conditions become too overwhelming, I hold on to my faith and trust that God is looking out for me. Believing in something bigger than us in the universe provides me with a lot of assurance and relief.

Apart from looking upward, I also reach out to those around me. Be it friends, family, or even a counselor, articulating your struggles is key to developing stronger caregiving abilities.

“Be true to the game, because the game will be true to you. If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you. If you put forth the effort, good things will be bestowed upon you. That’s truly about the game, and in some ways that’s about life too.” – Michael Jordan

Caregiver burnout / FAP News Today / Image of the author walking outside near the water with mountains in the background.

Jaime, in the zone. (Photo by Aubrey Christmas)

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Note: FAP News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of FAP News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to familial amyloid polyneuropathy.

Comments

M Belmaine avatar

M Belmaine

This is no comment on the excellent work you must do as a carer but rather a question on the view and expectations of the patient. I know through being told, that all ptients are different but as one with hATTR, very little is mentioned about my expectations. I realize that this maybe because it is depressing (or worse) and a positive outlook must be kept but as a patient we must be given some better idea of what to expect over time.
Maybe it is not but not knowing makes it a little unreal.

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