Avoiding Carer Burnout
It’s essential that caregivers take care of themselves too.
The secret to surviving long term caregiving is to pace yourself and rest when you feel you need to. Essentially ask for support.
If you as a caregiver feel constantly exhausted and stressed this can lead to serious health issues and decrease your own ability to care.
Unfortunately not all caregivers heed this advice and all too soon feel the weight and burden of caregiving.
It’s not unusual for caregivers to feel guilty about stepping away, even for a short time, or they can feel uncomfortable bringing a stranger into their home.
There can also be other factors to getting care support to enable you to take a break.
These can range from the older adult’s denial that they need any help, other family members, or financial concerns.
Consider the following to support your own caregiving role.
Accept that you will most likely feel guilty. It’s a normal part of caregiving simply because you care – it will never disappear. You are human after all. This should not stop you from reaching out and accepting the support that you need.
Taking regular breaks is the best way to maintain your own health and your ability to provide good care. Why not consider respite services and wellbeing centres which can provide you with a break from your care giving role. That break could be as little as an hour to enable you to meet with friends or go shopping.
If you’re not physically or mentally well enough to be your loved ones caregiver this will have a huge impact on them and your relationship with them.
You don’t need permission from anyone to ask for support in your care givers role. This isn’t a decision that your older adult gets to make or anyone else for that matter.
Many older adults can refuse outside help because they’re uncomfortable with the idea. Sadly someone with dementia doesn’t have the cognitive ability to make a rational decision.
If an older adult refuses, they’re not thinking of your needs and are often not considering their own true needs either. That’s why you need to make the decision.
All that matters is that they’re safe and well cared for when you’re not there this will protect your ability to care for them longer term.
Ask for support
It may take some time to find the right person to help and for them to learn the caregiving routines. For this reason it’s always best to reach out and identify support before you need it.
Consider who might form part of the ‘team’ you’ll need around you. That could include family, friends or a paid care service.
Transition into care
To make this transition simpler, you could have a member of that team shadow you until they learn the individual routine and likes then can be left alone with the older adult.
Alternatively someone might come for a short while at first and gradually increase their time as everyone adjusts to the new situation.
Paid care packages can be expensive so don’t discount the support your own family network can offer you. This will allow you to take the break you will so richly have earned. You should contact the North Tyneside Social Care team for advice and to enquire about a paid service initially.
Take a look at the CQC’s website to learn more about any care providers you might consider.
Not a babysitter
Nobody wants to be told that they’re getting a ‘babysitter’ so you may need to be creative when introducing them into your home.
A sensitive approach is especially important to prevent older people with dementia from reacting with fear or anxiety. This could erode your relationship with them. Remember they will always remember how an action made them feel even if the memory itself becomes hazy.
You could consider introducing the person as your domestic and have them help you with meal prep, light housekeeping, and simple care tasks initially.
After a few visits it will seem familiar that they’re around and it will be easier for you to leave to briefly pop away.
You could also position it as doing that person a favour. Perhaps you might suggest that this person is in need of additional income and you’re helping them with a few hours of work.
If family or friends are helping, you could say that they wanted to visit and spend time catching up. When they become regular visitors, you can start taking time for yourself again.
It would be strange if you didn’t feel the need to check in. You might be afraid or nervous to leave an older adult with a stranger or a family member with limited experience of them.
You could sometimes come back early as a surprise check-in to see what’s been happening. Or while you’re out, call them to hear how things are going.
The paid carer will always be asked to record notes in a daily plan which you can review if you wish to. This will put your mind at rest. If it’s a family member or friend why not ask them to do similar?
Identify local support
You should always consider the longer term impact that care giving may have on you and your immediate family. Talk to Age UK North Tyneside’s Information and Advice team for details on local carer support groups and speak with Adult Social Care as soon as possible.
There are several, local peer support groups in existence in North Tyneside as well as a huge amount of activities for carers and the family members they support.
The Dementia Connections team provides activities and Meeting Centres not only for the person living with dementia but their carer and family members. Other local activities include men’s clubs, dancing or singing for the brain as well as crafting and creative groups.
Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge, advice, information and support available to you.
The Living Well North Tyneside website has a huge amount of detail about North Tyneside support for those in a caring role or initially call Age UK North Tyneside. It’s a ‘one stop shop’ for all information specific to people aged 50 plus in North Tyneside Tel: 0191 2808484 Option 1.