Caregiver burnout is serious! Health professionals and policymakers alike are deeply concerned about the well-being of the family caregiver—the unpaid, overworked and too often unappreciated nursemaid to the sick and aging.
To help alleviate this problem, if the care recipient is able, there are seven things they can do to help the people that help them.
- Organize and prioritize your needs. Minimize the number of steps your caregiver needs to take in order to meet your needs. You may have to sacrifice spontaneity but that is a small price to pay to have a well-balanced caregiver. With your caregiver, write out a list of your most common needs and keep it near you. When you ask for help, check the list to see what other tasks your caregiver can do for you in the same trip.
- Don't waste time resisting help. Nothing can make caregiving more infuriating and exhausting than to have to argue offering help to the recipient. This is a hard call because for a care recipient to live more independently, they must experiment with adapting to a task. This can sometimes make problems bigger for the caregiver. The best solution for this problem is to set aside time with your caregiver when you are in the mood to relearn tasks.
- Learn to be adaptive. Use the time you spend with your caregiver to help adapt your environment so that you can function independently. Just because you can't do things the way you once did doesn't mean you can't do them a differently. However, it may take help and insight from your caregiver to get you and your environment adapted.
- Don't treat your caregiver like a servant. A good caregiver is an extension of your own being; the two of you work as a team. Unless your caregiver has agreed to help you with a special project, don't expect them to clean up or serve your friends or other family members. Their job is to be vigilant to your needs and safety.
- Don't abuse your caregiver’s time off. For those caregivers that are paid, do not interrupt their time off. After all, how would you feel if your boss phoned you on a weekend asking that you come in to work for just a couple of hours? Respite for friends or family is a little more difficult especially when you live under the same roof. In this circumstance, the care recipient may want to take the initiative to encourage or arrange respite for their primary family caregiver.
- Learn to be tolerant to different ways. Avoid misunderstandings and confrontations by either being very explicit about what you want or learn to appreciate the ways in which people do things differently.
- Have a backup of caregivers. Retain your good caregivers by having a roster of people that can fill in during an emergency. Post the list with names and telephone numbers in a conspicuous place. Just knowing there is relief will be a relief to your caregivers and you.
Fay Mikiska is the author of the CaregivingTool: For Managing Your Caregivers and Repair & AfterCare: For Post-Op Home Recovery. She has been a caregiving recipient for over 27 years. She was born in 1956 and calls Midtown Sacramento her home. For more information about the CaregivingTool, please visit http://caregivingtool.com/.