Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

Sick? Can't sleep? You may be suffering from caregiver burnout.

Stacey Feintuch
More Sharing +

Feeling drained or burned out is a completely normal part of being a caregiver. Caring for someone with cancer can bring many rewards to your life, but it can also take a lot out of you—physically, mentally and emotionally. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs of caregiver burnout—and how to handle it.

Signs of caregiver burnout
You may be burned out if you...

  • have trouble sleeping and lack energy
  • can't seem to relax
  • get sick often
  • feel helpless, sad or angry
  • lose your temper and patience or feel anger or resentment toward the person you’re caring for
  • are withdrawing from friends, family and activities
  • are losing interest in your favorite hobbies
  • experience a change in eating habits

9 ways to manage burnout
Here are some tips on preventing and dealing with caregiver burnout. Always remember that if you want to take care of someone else in the best way you can, you must take care of yourself first!

  1. Talk with someone. Find a person you can talk with about your feelings, such as a close friend, family member or colleague. You may want to seek professional help—speak with a therapist or social worker who can understand what you’re experiencing.
  2. Write it down. Use a journal as a way to release your thoughts and feelings. Record your fears, impressions, sense of confusion and more.
  3. Join a support group. Share what you're going through with others in a similar situation. Whether they meet online or in person, these groups offer a great way to meet people who will understand what you're feeling.
  4. Make time for yourself. Just because you’re a caregiver doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make time for yourself. Enlist a friend, family member or home health aide to relieve you of your duties. Still can’t get out? While your loved one is sleeping, try drinking a cup of tea, soaking in the tub or even surfing the Internet to relax.
  5. Get educated. Learn as much as you can about breast cancer. The more you know, the more you’ll be prepared for appointments, what’s ahead and the like.
  6. Recruit help. You don’t have to do everything yourself. If people offer help, accept it. If they don’t offer, ask them whether they will lend a hand; they’ll likely be happy to assist you. Ask a family member to shop for groceries and have a neighbor pick up a prescription. The extra hands will enable you to focus on your loved one and yourself.
  7. Get people to come to you. Make your life as easy as possible. Have dry cleaning picked up and delivered. Find a hairdresser who makes house calls. Order your groceries online, and consider hiring a cleaning service.
  8. Stay healthy. It’s critical that you see to your own needs so that you can be in optimal shape for the sake of the person you’re caring for. Eat a healthful diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, get plenty of sleep, and exercise at least 3 to 5 days a week.
  9. Learn to laugh. They say laughter is the best medicine, so rent a silly movie, read a funny book or magazine or call a friend with a good sense of humor to find a way to let loose and chuckle.
December 2011