This blog was originally published in June 2021. It has been updated and republished in recognition of National Family Caregivers Month.
You might know or be a family member, friend, or neighbor who actively cares for someone with physical, cognitive, or mental needs. If so, you are likely a caregiver. A great deal of time, patience, and costs are associated with being a caregiver for someone. Many are often unaware of the long-term commitment it takes to care for or supervise someone with new or long-standing challenges.
Each November, caregivers are recognized across the country through National Family Caregivers Month. This annual acknowledgement shines a light on issues specific to caregivers, education, and resources to support care-giving needs.
It is estimated that there are between 40 to 50 million Americans who provide unpaid care-giving services to family members, friends, or neighbors in their community. Caregivers often encounter obstacles not only related to the care of a loved one, but also maintaining their own health and well-being. They may have few if any other people to talk to and confide in, or they may be juggling their own professional life with the care of a loved one.
Burnout is a term that is frequently associated with employment, defined as “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress”. Considering that care-giving is more often than not equivalent to taking on a part or even a full time job, burnout can also occur within this context.
Imagine your attention being tugged in multiple directions - helping to manage new medications; driving to and from different physicians and therapists; having to monitor a new diet; supervising for safety; encouraging engagement in activities; practicing therapy exercises at home. Before you know it, the day has passed you by and there may still be personal matters that you have yet to attend to.
Even as a caregiver, you have to take care of YOU as well. The saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” has never been more true. You must reclaim your time and “fill your cup” as well, which may mean carving out time daily to address your needs.
So, what does taking time for yourself look like? Depending on your needs, each outcome can be different. Consider if some of the following options can work for you.
Are you a caregiver who has dealt with burnout? How are you working through it? Leave a comment below, and contact Cognition, Speech & Language if you need guidance navigating your needs as a caregiver.
Devon Brunson, MS, CCC-SLP
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