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Help for Caregivers Blog

Keep up with some of the latest helpful information regarding caregiving from reliable sources.

3 Ways to Relieve Caregiver Burden

4/22/2022 12:00:00 AM

glass of waterIn my preceding post, I shared a link to the Burden Scale for Family Caregivers-Short version (BSFC-s), an evidence-based tool that shows how caregiving impacts the health of a caregiver. A low score indicates no increased risk for impaired health, which is very good news. However, higher scores warn of increased health risks due to caregiving.

When others depend on your care and quitting isn’t an option, preventing depletion is job number one. Finding relief is the next crucial step if you’re already stressed by caregiving. Use these three tips to help prevent and provide relief for caregiver burden.

  1. Pay attention to stress warning signs

    You can complete the BSFC-s as one way to evaluate your level of strain. Another way is to simply pay attention to your own physical and emotional stress symptoms, and to listen to feedback from family or friends. Over time, little stresses and strains add up. Heeding the stress warnings is a vitally important way to avoid becoming ill and unable to function. A story that circulates on the web, author unknown, vividly illustrates this point.

    When presenting a stress management class, the teacher raises a glass of water. Everyone expects to be asked the ultimate question, “Half-empty or half-full?” But she fools them all by instead asking, “How heavy is this glass of water?”

    Answers from the students range from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.

    With a knowing smile, the teacher replies, “The weight doesn’t matter. Its heaviness depends on the length of time I try to hold it.”

    “If I hold it for a minute, that’s no problem; it will feel light. If I hold it for an hour, it will seem very heavy and that’s a problem. My arm will really hurt. If I try to hold it for a day, it will become too much to hold and that’s a disaster! I’ll need an ambulance! In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

    — Unknown

    That’s the way it is with caregiver burden. If you give what seems like a manageable amount of care for too long without a break, the load grows increasingly heavy. If you ignore the stress warning signs and continue on without resting, your body and mind will hurt. Sooner or later the little load will become more than you can bear; no matter how much you want to, you won’t be able to carry on. Look, listen, and respond to the signs that you are carrying too much for too long.

  2. Take a break

    Like that glass of water, periodically you have to lay down your caregiving responsibilities and take time for respite. It’s the only way to refresh your energy and retain your strength for the long-term commitment of caregiving. You aren’t a caregiving machine that plugs into an electrical socket for energy. Your human energy is organic; it comes from within. It ebbs and flows; you are the one who must replenished it when your energy is spent. Whether short or long, taking any type of a respite break will allow you to recharge.

  3. Do something “nice” for yourself every day

    Respite is just one example of healthy self-care but there are many others. They include anything that takes care of your needs, not just those of others...anything that is enjoyable or pleasant, that brings you joy, peace, or inner calm. Small acts, when practiced daily, add up. They refill your depleted energy and relieve your sense of stress and burden. So take a deep breath when tense, enjoy a beautiful sunset, or listen to enjoyable music. These cost nothing but are valuable sources of healthy energy.

Do you hear “stress warning” signals? Could you use a break to restore your energy? What enjoyable or pleasant thing will you do today? Build energizing experiences, people, pastimes and habits into your day-to-day life. No matter how small, these investments in self-care will be good for both you and your loved ones.

As you do so much for others, remember to take good care of yourself, too…Jane