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Caregivers represent a massive and growing segment of healthcare in the United States, and National Family Caregivers Month represents a time to pause and acknowledge the sacrifices made by caregivers. 43.5 million Americans provide some form of unpaid caregiving for loved ones annually, and burnout is a common feeling among those who balance caregiving with a career and other family responsibilities. Below we'll be taking a look at how to reduce burnout and access support for yourself while you're supporting your loved ones.
Increasing numbers of people are choosing to care for loved ones at home, and many of them are providing this care themselves:
Informal caregiving is an increasingly common part of healthcare, especially within senior care and care for those with dementia. And while the typical image of caregivers tends to be a younger person providing support to an ailing parent, it comprises many different family relationships. Many people spend their old age taking care of a spouse. Many others are sandwiched between raising younger relatives and caring for older ones. And the tasks many of them perform take up an exceptional percentage of their time.
Caregivers, on average, spend:
These responsibilities may be part of being a caregiver, but many have more complex tasks. In addition, many caregivers have no one to assist them:
Looking at these numbers, it's easy to understand caregiver burnout. Informal caregivers spend long hours on domestic and assistive tasks, and many also have full- or part-time employment. They also contend with the emotional difficulty of providing medical and daily care to a loved one, who may be disabled. None of this is easy, but it can be rewarding. Caregiving has value and can strengthen the close relationship between the caregiver and recipient. There are also numerous sources that the caregiver can rely on to ease their duties or provide emotional support.
There are two basic categories of reducing burnout: practical support and emotional support.
Practical support involves finding methods of easing duties or organizations that can help with assistive or domestic tasks. Although not everyone can afford a formal caregiver or successfully receive insurance money to pay for one, there are options to reduce the stress of your caregiving duties.
Practical approaches to ease your duties include:
Part of getting practical help is identifying your needs as well as your recipient's. Categorizing your tasks can help you determine which ones require the most effort or time. When looking for support, these might be the first responsibilities to consider finding help for. Examples of types of duties include:
Emotional Support involves finding services, groups, or methods of easing the stress or emotional difficulty of caretaking. Understanding and fulfilling your own emotional needs is not as straightforward as figuring out the daily tasks you'd like help with, and may require a greal deal of discussion and reflection.
Emotional support for your caregiving duties may include:
Getting help for yourself while caregiving isn't uncommon. Although attending to a loved one's needs is rewarding, it can become the overwhelming concern of your life, disrupting your other responsibilities and your ability to meet your own personal needs. Finding practical and emotional support can help you both balance your life as well as better meet the needs of your loved one and their care.
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