By Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC
Caregiver burnout is not a pretty sight! We get weepy, crabby, overwhelmed and exhausted. In time, burnout can actually lead to clinical depression and physical illness. If only we put some of our caregiver energy into our own care, we could prevent this sorry and dangerous state of affairs from developing.
In the last years of their lives our parents required live-in help around the clock as well as a great deal of attention from my brother Dick and me. In the five-year period during which we managed their care, we each evolved a unique personal care plan to renew ourselves.
Dick drove from New Jersey to the city to visit our parents most Sundays. He took them for wonderful short visits to places of interest that he, as well as they, would enjoy -- South Street Seaport, the Central Park Zoo or a museum. When our parents moved into a nursing home in Connecticut, Dick sometimes stopped on the shores of the Hudson River to rent a sail boat for an hour or so, just to clear his head before his visit.
My personal care plan was a little different. I visited from Connecticut once a week to check in with the home health aides. I brought my father a favorite treat and took Mother out to lunch at a quiet restaurant we both liked. I made sure to leave my house after 10:00 in the morning and start home by 3:00 in the afternoon to avoid rush hour traffic, which made a difficult drive impossibly unpleasant. I closed my office for the day so I could take a nap when I got home.
Although our individual care plans differed sharply, some common themes emerge.
- Barring emergencies, we set limits on how often we would visit and for how long we could stay. (Setting limits to what you can do and when you can do it is crucial to preserving your energy for care giving and for your other life responsibilities).
- We arranged activities that were fun and pleased both ourselves and our parents (Fun is the key word here. Fun replenishes energy).
- We each planned time to be alone to recharge our batteries. (Even 10-15 minutes a day, without electronic interruption, is renewing).
PEARL OF WISDOM:
Taking care of yourself is a lot like using the oxygen mask on an airplane. You have to put on your own mask first, or you can’t help anyone else.
Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC is a Geriatric Care Manager based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. For information visit her web site www.joanblumenfeld.com © 2010 Joan Blumenfeld