Senior Lifestyles: Preventing caregiver burnout

Published 10:00 pm Monday, May 8, 2017

There are few tasks more emotionally, physically or mentally difficult than being a caregiver for a loved one.  Regardless of whether the person being cared for has become frail from illness or age, suffered a debilitating physical setback like a stroke, or has an increasingly difficult cognitive issue, being a caregiver is an exhausting, 24/7 job. So the question often asked is, as a caregiver what can I do to prevent mental and physical burnout?

There are a number of things that can help you survive the demands of caregiving, and among them are don’t be trapped or guilt-tripped into becoming “Superwoman” or “Superman” – you aren’t and you can’t survive the demands of providing care on your own for the long run.  Here are five suggestions that can help you prevent burnout and care for yourself.

1. Don’t bury your feelings from yourself or others: Being a caregiver has some rewarding moments, but it also presents some challenging times, and they won’t make you feel good or happy about yourself or your situation.  It’s okay to feel angry and resentful, and sharing those feelings with others, especially professionals and others in your situation in a local support group can help you cope with these emotions. 

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2. Don’t expect miracles: Be realistic, and set attainable goals. You can’t be everything to everyone in your life, and there will be times when you, your family or the person for whom you’re caring may not receive you highest level of love or compassion. It’s okay, it happens, so don’t feel guilty. Look to achieve attainable goals, you can’t get to everything or do everything you may see yourself as expected to do, so do your best and do what you can without guilt, and be happy with what you do.

 3. Don’t beat yourself up: Being a caregiver is tough enough, so don’t spend a moment berating yourself with negative talk or thoughts. Be very proud of what you do and what you accomplish on a daily basis, and accept that some days are going to be better than others.

4. Manage Your Stress: Stress is a part of our everyday life. As a caregiver, it’s magnified, and if you don’t manage it, it will burn you out. Once that happens, like it or not, you must take a break from doing that allow your mind and body to recover.

These can and will help you manage daily stress:

A) Learn deep breathing techniques, practice them everywhere you go and employ them whenever you confront a stressful situation or feel yourself becoming overwhelmed.

B) Do something you enjoy, just for yourself at least twice a day, whether it’s taking a walk, or taking a break for a cool refreshing beverage. Just let yourself relax, regain your composure and level of calm and you can actually feel the stress being eliminated from your body.

5. Stay healthy: It does you no good to become ill or in the worst case, predecease your loved one. You have to care for yourself first if you hope to be capable of caring for a loved one. Here are some common sense steps you can take to maintain your health:

A) Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

B) Don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated – drink plenty of water.

C) Exercise as your time allows. Even short walks are valuable; keep your body moving.

D) Get as much sleep as your schedule allows, but plan both bedtime and awakening at the same time every day to give your body a steady routine.

E) If you’re on medications, be sure you maintain your regular schedule for taking them. See your doctor at least twice a year, and have your blood pressure checked as stress can create some serious difficulties with increased hypertension and that’s never good for you.

Caring for a loved one isn’t easy and isn’t the path you may have chosen. But if fate deals you that hand, doing your best for yourself is a key part of an overall plan to be a successful caregiver.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant, expert speaker on issues of aging, Medicare and Obamacare, and author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available as a Kindle book on He may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at