What Do Caregivers Experience?
Often, someone in the role of a caregiver will feel overwhelmed, under-appreciated and even criticized at times. Many are doing the best that they can, without anyone caring for the caregiver. This can often lead to caregiver burnout or compassion fatigue.
As someone who has worked in healthcare for more than 16 years and has been a caregiver to my husband for the last 7 years of our 8 year marriage, I get it. While I do not claim to be an expert on your specific situation, I do have a lot of experience seeing what many do wrong and what many do right to survive this journey…with their own lives still intact.
What Is Burnout or Compassion Fatigue?
While this may look differently for each individual caregiver, here are some things to look for:
- Withdrawal from previously enjoyed relationships
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Changes in patterns and quality of sleep
- Increased irritability
- Feeling hopeless or powerless
- Becoming cynical
- Experiencing increased negative feelings towards the person you are caring for
Here is some great information published by the Cleveland Clinic:
Improving Caregiver Mental Health
While I cannot offer some magical tool or trick for helping all caregivers maintain happiness and decrease the chances of burnout, I can share what has worked for me and the thousands of families I have worked with.
For those who manage to get through the caregiver role successfully, I notice they are always working to maintain an attitude of gratitude. I know! It seems so simple, but it has such a huge impact on keeping a caregiver healthy and happy.
While I am not even suggesting that you will not have times and days where you will still feel sad, overwhelmed and frustrated, I am encouraging you to make a choice daily to find something to be happy about.
Some caregiver tools that you may find beneficial can include books, support groups and even journaling.
Here is a link to a great self-care journal for caregivers that allows you to use prompts to really spend time focusing on your own health and well-being:
How Does Gratitude Help A Caregiver?
Those who are able to maintain an attitude of gratitude in the middle of adversity are noted to:
- Have improved health, both physical and mental
- Adjust better to adverse situations
- Experience improved sleep
- Have better cardiovascular health
- Feel less stress
- Have improved relationships
Don’t believe it? Check out this study from Harvard published in 2021:
Still Not Sure?
I understand how this seems either too easy or impossible if you are a 24/7 caregiver. My own journey has not been seamless and I am a professional healthcare provider. However, I can share with you that either way this is hard! So I chose my “hard” everyday.
We can choose to work to get through this time as caregivers by struggling and feeling sorry, sad and resentful.
I choose to make the decision every single day that I will find something to be grateful for. Even if it is a stranger who is kind enough to smile at me in passing. Looking for things to be grateful for is the only reason I have made it this far.
My hope is that you too will work on your own gratitude daily, for the sake of yourself and those who count on you.
Download a free eBook on cultivating gratitude in your own life! Click the link below: