Professional caregivers are equipped with techniques and strategies to deal with caregiver burnout, but it can be a different story when it’s a family member providing the care to a loved one.

Not to say that professional caregivers don’t care as much, or don’t form close bonds with the people they’re caring for, but it’s a different dynamic than when it’s a family member who is caregiving.

There can be a lot of extra baggage when caring for a family member, especially if you didn’t have the greatest relationship with them. On the other hand, there can also be a lot more love and understanding than you could reasonable expect from a professional caregiver.

In any case, caregiver role strain and burnout are very serious things that happen often to people who dedicate themselves to caring for others, so we’ve put together these tips to help. If you’re struggling as a caregiver, just remember that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you are weak. You’re already carrying more than most people could. It will be difficult, you will run into challenges, you’ll feel lost and hopeless at times, but you’ve got this.

1. Acknowledge The Reality of the Situation

Caring for loved ones is usually a long-term endeavour. It can last months, years, or even decades. Part of this job is to understand this, acknowledge it, and to not let the negative feelings and stress stay bottled up for long periods of time. You need to actively work to reduce the stress and burnout, which means acknowledging that this is going to be an on-going thing. There will be ups and downs.

2. Don’t Neglect Yourself

Self-care is essential in caring for somebody else. You simply cannot constantly put their needs ahead of your own. Of course, there are times where you will, like maybe you want to grab some groceries but you have to run to take care of something for a loved one. But in the bigger picture, you have to put yourself first if you want to be able to maintain a good level of care for someone else in the longterm.

Self-care can mean taking some time for yourself, seeking out respite care, making sure you have a little energy left at the end of the day to do things for yourself, or even just taking the extra 15 minutes to have a nice bath instead of a quick shower. It means different things to different people, but it’s crucial in finding a balance.

3. Celebrate Your Victories

You’ll face many small victories and defeats along the way, it’s almost a daily thing. Don’t let the defeats bring you down too much, and always make sure you’re celebrating your victories.

4. Make Healthy Choices

This is pretty general well-being advice, but it’s extra important for caregivers because they can face more stress than the average person. If you find yourself resorting to junk food and binge-eating because you don’t have time to cook, or you’re too tired to get in any exercises, or you’re turning to drugs and alcohol to get your mind off things, these may feel like they offer relief in the short term, but in the long-term you’re only digging a deeper hole for yourself to have to climb out of.

This circles back around to self-care, too. You’ve got to take care of yourself if you want to take care of somebody else. It’s very difficult, nobody will say otherwise, but you have to deal with the stresses and challenges in a healthy and productive way that keeps you at your best.

5. Ask For Help

In some families, there will be more than one person who is able to help out. In some situations, it might just be you. If other family members are available, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not responsible to carry all of the weight of giving care solely on your shoulders. If other family members are resistant, it can cause deep resentments, as you work hard to continue giving care without any help. If they are willing to help, make sure you ask!

If there are not other family members who can or will help you, there are other options. In some cases, Medicaid will offer some funding for respite care so that you can get some time off, and you may be eligible for special caregiver training that will go into more details about techniques and strategies for maintaining your sanity and providing the necessary care.

It’s important that you ask for help. You can let people know you’re starting to get burnt out, and that you may need help soon, so that it’s ready before you hit the brick wall.