The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America compiled this list to fit the nine components of the “Caregiver Wellness: U Model©.” Eboni Green, Ph.D., RN, co-founder of Caregiver Support Services, Omaha, developed this conceptual model to empower caregivers to achieve optimum wellness. The components are social, psychological, physical, intellectual, spiritual, occupational and financial wellness, plus the empowerment and resilience, or flexibility, necessary for you to take charge of your health on a holistic basis. (Note: Many of the strategies overlap categories)
Virtually every caregiver is a front runner for burnout. Becoming educated, adjusting your attitude, carving out time for yourself and taking practical steps each day can help you get ahead of it.
If you’re currently balancing work and caregiving responsibilities, you know how hard the juggling act can be. It’s one issue that can raise a big red flag for burnout, putting your job at risk and putting your loved one’s health and your own health at risk. Learning about the increasing number of options available on the job and at home, and figuring out which of them works best for your situation can help you balance caregiving and career.
FAQ: Coping with Stress
Q. How do I cope with the stress and grief that I am experiencing?
A. You are not alone. Caregivers face a tremendous risk for stress and burnout. Family caregivers often put aside their own rest and recreation in order to devote all their attention to the person with the disease. Providing care, whether it is physical or emotional, can be very strenuous upon the body if it is not given the opportunity to de-stress.
It is important to acknowledge these feelings as early as possible in order to deal with them and avoid potential burnout in the future. You need to take care of yourself in order to provide the best care to your loved one. Although circumstances vary from caregiver to caregiver, there are general ways to improve your well-being.
First, you need to have sufficient energy. This can come from eating nutritious meals, getting plenty of rest, exercising on a weekly basis and participating in favorite activities.
It is also critical to have some time away from your loved one—and focus on nothing but “you” for a while. Even a mere hour to yourself to get a massage, watch a TV show, take a stroll in the par, or have lunch with a friend can do the trick.
There is no question that dealing with grief and loss is very painful. Although it takes time for a person to heal, support from others, both professionals and peers, can help the process. Being with caregivers who have faced similar situations is an extremely therapeutic method of dealing with this kind of pain. Joining a support group in your area is a great way of accessing that help. With peers, you can hear what others are doing in similar situations and you can safely and confidentially unload some of the intense emotions brought on by caregiving. They also provide you with much needed socialization.
If you continue to feel overwhelmed by grief and note symptoms of depression or anxiety, I encourage you to also seek professional help.
FAQ: Support Groups
Q. I just found a support group that is forming in our area, but I feel uneasy about discussing my husband’s behaviors with a group of strangers (like a betrayal). Do you have some tips on how to use a caregiver support group?
A. Let me start by telling you why support groups are a wonderful resource—often a lifesaver, in effect. Besides serving as a source of helpful tips on care strategies and services, support groups also offer a safe place to unload some of the intense emotions brought on by caregiving. By venting feelings such as frustration, anger or grief, caregivers typically gain a renewed sense of hope and calmness—and this helps offer the kindness, compassion and patience that loved ones need.
But I hear what you are saying about “betrayal.” It is not uncommon to initially feel awkward about sharing your story. Rest assured that the sessions are confidential and that the other participants and the group’s facilitator are there to support you without judgment. It’s okay to ease into the process. You can take your time in sharing your personal story until you feel more comfortable with the environment. There is no need to feel pressured to participate, although it might be more helpful to do more than just listen.
In general, try to find a group that meets at a time and location that you can easily attend for several months. It is best to find a group that is enjoyable and meaningful, and to stick with that group. One of the most important considerations in choosing a new support group is to commit to several meetings with the group as it takes time to get accustomed to the group format, and for the other group members to get accustomed to new members. Support groups are designed to benefit the group members. Make sure to speak up if the group is not meeting your needs. For example, if every single meeting becomes purely a venting session and you do not have the opportunity to ask questions you may have, let the participants know that you also want to have the ability to tap into their expertise at times.