By Dr. M. Ross Seligson
Being able to cope with the
strains and stresses of being a Caregiver is part of the
art of Caregiving In order to remain healthy so that we
can continue to be Caregivers, we must be able to see
our own limitations and learn to care for ourselves as
well as others.
It is important
for all of us to make the effort to recognize the signs
of burnout, In order to do this we must be honest and
willing to hear feedback from those around us. This is
especially important for those caring for family or
friends. Too often Caregivers who are not closely
associated with the healthcare profession get overlooked
and lost in the commotion of medical emergencies and
procedures. Otherwise close friends begin to grow
distant, and eventually the Caregiver is alone without a
support structure. We must allow those who do care for
us, who are interested enough to say something, to tell
us about our behavior, a noticed decrease in energy or
like a cold. You don't always notice it when you are in
its clutches. Very much like Post Traumatic Stress
Syndrome, the symptoms of burnout can begin surfacing
months after a traumatic episode. The following are
symptoms we might notice in ourselves, or others might
say they see in us. Think about what is being said, and
consider the possibility of burnout.
- Feelings of depression.
- A sense of ongoing and
- Decreasing interest in
- Decrease in work
- Withdrawal from social
- Increase in use of
stimulants and alcohol.
- Increasing fear of death.
- Change in eating patterns.
- Feelings of helplessness.
Strategies to ward off or cope
with burnout are important. To counteract burnout, the
following specific strategies are recommended
- Participate in a support
- Consult with professionals
to explore burnout issues.
- Attend a support group to
receive feedback and coping strategies.
- Vary the focus of
caregiving responsibilities if possible (rotate
responsibilities with family members).
- Exercise daily and maintain
a healthy diet.
- Establish "quiet time" for
- Get a weekly massage
- Stay involved in hobbies.
By acknowledging the reality
that being a Caregiver is filled with stress and
anxiety, and understanding the potential for burnout,
Caregivers can be forewarned and guard against this
debilitating condition. As much as it is said, it can
still not be said too often, the best way to be an
effective Caregiver is to take care of yourself.
M. Ross Seligson, Ph.D., P.A., is
a Licensed Psychologist in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. He
has supported Caregivers in his community for a number
of years, including participation in AIDS, Mental
Health, Cancer and Educational organizations.