5 ways to regain your energy after caregiver burnout

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As a caregiver of an aging loved one your days are long and filled with responsibilities. Taking care of yourself is at the end of the list – and it stays there. You may feel run down, lethargic and like you are burning the candle at both ends. These are some of the symptoms caregiver stress and burnout and you should pay close attention to them. If you fall into full-fledged burnout it will significantly impact your ability to care for your loved one.

46% of caregivers suffer from depression, just one of the signs of caregiver burnout. Others include:

  • You have much less energy than you once had
  • You are constantly sick and rundown
  • You are constantly exhausted even though you sleep at night
  • You neglect your own needs because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
  • Caregiving is a source of anxiety and gives you little satisfaction
  • You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for
  • You feel helpless and hopeless.

There are ways to address these feelings and regain your energy with simple, common sense strategies. If you are suffering from burnout, some of these suggestions may seem impossible to carry out. You really have no choice; to ignore burnout is to risk your ability to care for your loved one.

1. See a doctor:

Make a doctor’s appointment with your primary care physician. There may be underlying causes for your fatigue and malaise like high or low blood pressure or high or low blood sugar. Your doctor can help you get back on track to good health.

2. Exercise a little every day:

You don’t have to go to the gym. Walk around the yard. Jog up and down the driveway. Put on some music and dance inside the house. Moving will increase the amount of oxygen in your heart, lungs and brain and will help you to feel better immediately. When seniors exercise regularly and work fitness into their daily routines, it will boost their energy levels and help fight fatigue.

3. Learn to meditate:

This doesn’t mean that you have to go to a mountain top retreat! It means that you find a quiet spot every day for 5 or 10 minutes of quiet reflection and deep breathing. When your loved one takes a nap, sit in a chair and practice deep breathing for relaxation. Find a beginner’s Yoga practice on DVD, online or through a television service. Yoga will relax your muscles, your mind and improve your energy levels.

4. Eat well for more energy:

Feed your body with healthy food that will fuel your energy. Fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil will give you steady energy.

5. Get a good night’s sleep:

Using the hours when you should be sleeping for other tasks will actually give you diminishing returns. You need 8 hours of sleep a night. When you get less, your mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.

Caregivers spend most of their time caring for our loved ones, subsequently creating an opening for stress, fatigue, and breakdowns. Preventing caregiver burnout can’t be done with tact and preparation; additionally, Home Care Assistance also offers respite care to support and mitigate this unfortunate phenomenon.

How family caregivers can benefit from respite care

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What is Respite Care?

Respite care is a type of assistance that allows the family caregiver to take a break from care-giving. This type of care focuses on helping family caregivers recharge, ease their stress, and avoid caregiver burnout. Rather than spending time attending to daily duties, respite care provides assistance and support to the family caregiver. Keeping the caregiver healthy and supported results in higher quality time spent together. The longer a family member can provide appropriate care, the longer the loved one is able to stay comfortably at home.

Role of a Family Caregiver

The role of a family caregiver can be an honor and a privilege. Some caregivers acknowledge they enjoy having the opportunity to “repay” their parent by caring for them. Caring for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, but intense or long-term care can often have a negative impact on the caregiver’s health and well-being. This is especially difficult if you are a first-time family caregiver.These individuals often struggle with balancing their role as a caregiver with their own family’s needs, or caregiving and paid employment. This often leads to a situation where the caregiver feels overwhelmed and confused about what steps to take next in their caregiving journey combined with the effects of anticipatory grief, and may put the family caregiver at risk of:

  • Psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, and anger
  • Health related issues resulting from chronic stress, lack of sleep and/or physical exercise
  • Personal financial problems
  • Negative career consequences
  • Drug/alcohol abuse
  • Elderly abuse

In order to prevent the risks mentioned above, you should consider respite if you’re a caregiver.

Types of Respite Care

Respite care can be provided at home or in a long-term care facility. Care can be provided by friends, neighbors, family members, volunteers, or a home health care service provider.

Some examples of respite care services include:

  • Personal Care
  • Companionship
  • Meal Preparation
  • Medication Reminder
  • Light Housekeeping
  • Nursing

Respite care also benefits the person receiving care in the following ways:

  • Developing and nurturing the care recipient’s social, recreational and life skills;
  • Reducing stress and improving long-term functioning of both caregivers and care recipients;
  • Preventing crisis situations and elder abuse.

Respite Resources are Available and Necessary for Family Caregivers

If you are a family caregiver, find some time this summer to focus on you. You deserve an extra hand or some time to take care of yourself.  The Lakes Homehealth offers respite care and home health services that are individualized and designed especially for you. Contact us about home care services at (305) 824-0230.

How to build a long distance care team

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We live in a mobile society and that means that adult children are not always going to live in close proximity to aging parents. That makes it difficult to make sure their daily needs are addressed, especially if illness or chronic disease strikes. It is possible to put together a long distance care team that will provide for your loved one and give you some peace of mind. Here are some tips on how to put together a reliable team that will serve the best interests of the senior you love.

1. Ask the senior how you can be most helpful
  • What do they need daily?
  • What tasks are difficult for them?
  • Do they have regular weekly or monthly appointments – hair, physician etc. that they need transportation to and from?
2. Talk to the senior’s physician
  • If the senior is willing to give you written permission, or you are the health care proxy, ask the physician to update you about the senior’s health. You can also discuss this with your loved one, but often seniors will hide information about their health condition for fear of losing their independence. You need to know exactly what the health impairments are in order to address them appropriately.
  • If you do not have permission or are not the health care proxy the physician cannot, by law, release private medical information to you. However, he or she may be willing to suggest the types of support that think will be most helpful.
3. Talk to friends, family members, neighbors of your loved one
  • Can a schedule of support and help be created?
  • Can a neighbor’s child take out the garbage or walk your loved one’s dog?
  • Can a sibling who lives close by take your loved one grocery shopping?
  • Can neighbors or family members check in the senior regularly, especially during extreme hot and cold weather?
  • Make sure everyone has all your phone numbers, your e-mail and other contact information.
4. Rely on local resources

There are many organizations that provide support for seniors. You can find the ones in your loved one’s area by checking these sources of information:

  • Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)
  • National Institute on Aging website
  • Family Care Navigator
  • Your state government’s website, search for “elder care”, “senior care”, or “INSERT STATE NAME Executive Office of Elder Affairs.”

Home Care agencies can also be a great resource to rely on. Certified, professional home caregivers can take care of your loved one and keep you updated on their condition.

5. Keep detailed records
  • Create a 3-ring binder in which you can keep notes, medical records, insurance information, calendars and even printed copies of emails. This will be a great help to you as the care of your loved one becomes more complex
  • Include contact information for all physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, case managers and specialists, like physical therapists
  • Make copies for all those involved in the support and care of your loved one and keep the records updated

The National Institute for Aging is a great resource for information on long-distance caregiving. They have two downloadable publications:

  • Long-Distance Caregiving: Twenty Questions and Answers
  • Long-Distance Caregiving—A Family Affair

The NIH also has a webpage dedicated to caregiving. It is a rich source of information that lists numerous books, fact sheets and information pages on a wide range of issues involved in caregiving. Last week, we published a piece on how to manage the Emotional impact of Long-Distance Care – an aspect of caring for your loved one that you don’t want to miss.

Can grapes help protect against alzheimer’s decline?

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A pilot study at the University of California, Los Angeles looked at whether consuming grapes could help fight the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers, led by Dr. Daniel H. Silverman, worked with people with early memory decline. They broke the volunteers into two groups – one that received whole grape powder and another that received a placebo powder that looked and tasted like the grape powder. The “grape group” received the equivalent of 2 ¼ cups of grapes per day. The researchers measured participants’ cognitive performance at the beginning of the study and again six months later. Brain metabolism was also measured at the beginning of the study and six months later by PET scans of the brain. These scans provide both predictive and diagnostic value to health professionals who are evaluating patients presenting with signs of dementia.

When people have Alzheimer’s disease, their brains aren’t working as they should. Some of that, experts believe, is due to problems with brain metabolism. The brain, like the rest of the body, needs energy to work properly. The areas of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s disease tend to need the most energy. The process of converting food to energy for the brain is, in very basic terms, brain metabolism. Healthy brain metabolism is essential for proper functioning. The study results showed that people with early memory decline had healthy metabolic activity in the regions of the brain most affected by early Alzheimer’s when they consumed the grape powder, but the people who consumed the placebo powder actually had a significant decline in metabolic activity in the same regions of the brain.

The study also showed that the “grape group” had positive changes in brain metabolism that correlates with cognitive improvement and improved performance of the working memory.

The results of the pilot study were published in the journal Experimental Gerontology[HT1]. What the results showed is that eating grapes every day preserved healthy metabolism, prevented decline of brain metabolism, and improved both memory and attention. According to Dr. Silverman, the study results “suggest that regular intake of grapes may provide a protective effect against early decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Why does eating grapes seem to work? There is evidence that the polyphenols in grapes help promote anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity in the brain. There is also research that suggests grapes may help encourage a healthy brain by reducing oxidative stress in the brain (which can lead to brain function decline), helping maintain levels of a chemical in the brain that promotes memory, and having anti-inflammatory effects.

While the study results are exciting, Dr. Silverman says further studies need to be done with larger groups.

At Home Care Assistance, we promote healthy brains and improved quality of life for our clients through multiple programs, including the Balanced Care Method – a holistic approach to healthy longevity – and the Cognitive Therapeutics Method – a cognitive stimulation program developed to keep aging minds sharp.

Four fall prevention strategies for seniors

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Falls pose one of the greatest dangers to a senior’s independence and self-sufficiency. More than one-third of people aged 65 and older fall each year, and those who fall once are two to three times more likely to fall again. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries and are responsible for significant disability, hospitalization, loss of independence, and reduced quality of life. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.

Here are four ways in which you can help your loved one to avoid falls.

1. Practice daily strengthening exercises:

Balance and coordination can be greatly improved through exercise. Exercise that improves strength, reaction time, and aerobic capacity is the best way to maintain strong muscles and balance. The most effective exercises can be integrated into activities of daily living and focus on balance and strength building. Here are some examples, though they should be carried out as appropriate for the senior’s current strength and balance:

  • Hold onto the sink and stand on one leg while brushing teeth.
  • While talking on the telephone, hold onto the wall and lean to one side, then the other to improve balance.
  • While putting laundry away, bend the knees and then straighten the legs to build muscle strength.
2. Make home modifications to prevent falls:

Making the house “fall-proof” includes assessing everything from lighting inside and outside the home to interior rugs. It is important to remove clutter and throw rugs from high-traffic areas and stairs. Make sure that each light fixture has the highest watt bulb possible. Place things in easy reach for your loved one in order to avoid reaching or climbing on chairs. Home modifications can also include encouraging your loved one to wear non-slip footwear in the house and not to walk around in stocking feet!

3. Look at your loved one’s medications:

Medications, especially antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can cause dizziness and fall hazards. Check with your loved one’s physician and ask specifically about the side effects of each medication your loved one takes on a regular basis.

Some medications may help to prevent falls. The CDC reported a study that found that vitamin D and calcium supplements may help to prevent falls. The study found that over women who took vitamin D and calcium supplements over a three year period were 46% less likely to fall compared to women who did not take the supplements. Before giving your loved one supplements check with your loved one’s physician. Supplements can interfere with the efficacy of prescription medications.

4. Beware of bifocals.

It has long been suspected that bifocals may contribute to the danger of falls for seniors. A recent study confirms that, saying that “…wearers of multifocal glasses have a high risk of falls when outside their homes and when walking up or down stairs.” The study also found that multifocal and bifocal glasses impair depth perception and make it more difficult to navigate steps and raised surfaces. When researchers provided seniors with single lens distance prescriptions to wear outdoors, falls were decreased by 40%. It pays to have two pair of glasses for your loved one; a single lens pair with a distance prescription for walking up or down outdoor stairs, in shopping centers or unfamiliar buildings, and bifocals as needed at home.

Have you found any helpful ways to prevent falls at home for your loved one? If so we would be interested in hearing about them. Every home environment is as different as each senior and sharing helpful tips helps all of us to prevent dangerous falls.

When to hire senior home care services

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There is often a lot of resistance and hesitation when it comes to hiring senior home care services. Many people don’t like admitting that they need help with daily activities, and family members don’t always know how to broach the subject. Unfortunately, this means that a senior relative can go years without assistance, since it can be several years from first witnessing the need to acquiring aid. This can become burdensome for people in the family, who are not always well equipped to handle such needs and may not have the time to devote to home care. It’s important to be able to notice and acknowledge when it’s time to hire senior home care services.

Noticing the Signs

Loved ones might notice that there are missed doctor’s appointments or that medications are left untaken. You may have observed failing hygiene, household chores left undone, or house pets or plants that aren’t tended to as well as they should be. All of these can be initial indicators that home care assistance could be beneficial. More severe signs may be distracted driving, difficulty remembering names, dates, or addresses, or that already present safety and health concerns become more acute.

Although discussing home health care might be uncomfortable or embarrassing, such assistance can help encourage a greater sense of independence, aid with transportation and mobility, and can help to ensure that health care needs are met promptly and with appropriate attentiveness and urgency. A single awkward conversation can be the first step to getting your loved one the help they need.

Full or part-time services are often all that are necessary. Staffing agencies can often be the easiest approach, since they locate the caregivers, handle payroll taxes, and perform all administrative work and conduct background checks. This is a relatively easy way to find qualified and verified home health care professionals. Another option is that you would hire a nurse or other caregiver directly. This would place the burden of performing the background check, as well as verifying references and credentials, on you. You would also be responsible for payroll taxes, Social Security withholding, etc., which can often seem a bit overwhelming. However, it’s possible that it could also save you money. It will ultimately be up to you to decide what’s best and to ensure that your loved one’s needs are met.

The importance of self-care for caregivers

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As a caregiver, you probably hear “Take care of yourself” more often than not. It can seem an impossible task. Caring for an aging loved one is an all-encompassing task on top of your other responsibilities at work and at home. If your loved one has recently been discharged from the hospital, caregiving has probably become more intense, and your exhaustion has probably deepened. Self-care is essential if you are to survive. There is a way to care for yourself in the midst of all your responsibilities and here are some realistic ways to make that happen.

1. Nap when your loved one naps.

Lock the doors and place a cot, oversized chair or bed next to them. Take a cat nap when they do. Yes, there are many other things you could be doing while they sleep. However, this is an opportunity to squeeze in time to care for yourself, and you need to make it a priority.

2. Snack when your loved one snacks.

You may be too tired to eat three big meals a day, and that can lead to snacking on High-fat, high-sugar foods. You can change that. When you make snacks for your loved one, make them as healthy as possible and make enough for yourself. Try whole grain crackers with slices of cheese and apples. Serve small cups of soup and half a sandwich. Create a colorful plate of sliced oranges and grapes. Prepare a morning snack and an afternoon snack. Pour water in the good wine glasses and add a slice of lemon. If you have to prepare snacks anyway, why not make them appetizing for you and your loved one?

3. Relax for 10 minutes.

Set the timer and sit down. You can fold the laundry or sort through the mail while you sit down with your feet up. Turn on your loved one’s favorite TV show, make a cup of your favorite tea, coffee or hot chocolate and watch it with them. If they don’t have a favorite show, then find one that you like and watch it together. Do some deep breathing exercises and do not get up until the timer goes off!

4. Breathe in fresh air.

It doesn’t matter what climate you live in; you need fresh air. Whether it is a hot, dry southern climate or a cold northern one, you need to breathe in the outdoor air at least once a day. It’s good for the lungs and the mind. If your loved one can’t go outside, stand in front of an open window. Bundle them up if the weather demands it and then let the fresh air in. Do deep breathing exercises and teach your loved one to do them with you. In a matter of minutes, you will feel refreshed.

Caregivers give their all to their loved ones – all day, every day. Caring for yourself can seem impossible unless you begin to look at it differently. Most caregivers aren’t going to ask relatives to step in so they can take a day off and even fewer are going to take the time to go to a spa. However, if you think of the small moments in the day in which you can care for yourself along with your loved one, it will seem easier to accomplish. Read more about how to take care of yourself in our blog post, “How Caregivers Can Avoid Depression.”