Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or toughness. The skill of resilience is one of the top solutions for caregiver burnout. The ability to recover during and after the rigors of caregiving is perhaps the most important characteristic necessary to continue on with one’s life.
How do you build resilience? Very carefully. Perhaps the more relevant question is, can you build resilience? The answer is yes, you can, but it takes determination and a conscious approach to the process. It means putting yourself first at regular intervals while you are a caregiver and putting systems in place to help protect your own life. In the midst of caring for someone who is frail with a long list of physical and emotional needs, this can seem selfish, even careless. However, if you are to remain steadfast as a caregiver and pick up your life where you left off when your caregiving duties are over, building resilience is essential. Here are four ways in which caregivers can build more resilience:
1. Build a team. Friends, family members, professional caregivers, home health services, even Meals on Wheels can create a team to help you with caregiving responsibilities. You can be the team captain who is responsible for scheduling and coordinating services and support. You may be the primary caregiver, but delegation is crucial in relieving some of the pressure of daily responsibilities.
You should divide responsibilities among team members according to each person’s strengths. Someone may feel more comfortable interacting with insurance companies and medical offices while another person is willing to take on housekeeping and cooking duties. You do not need to carry the entire burden of caregiving by yourself. Creating a team will help you to build resilience because the help of others will allow you to retain some of your personal strength for yourself.
2. Identify what you need help with most. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Caregivers tend to take on all the responsibilities of caregiving, work, and family without thinking about delegating some of the tasks. It is important to identify what you need help with and then find someone to take care of it for you. For example, do you need someone to mow the lawn or rake the leaves? Can someone run small errands for you like going to the pharmacy, the dry cleaners, and the post office? You may think it’s easier to do all these things yourself, but asking for help will eliminate pressure on you, and remove several things from your daily “To Do” list. When you can reduce the frustration of not being able to do small things for yourself, like picking up your own prescription, you can calm yourself, which in turn builds resilience.
3. Organize your own life. Caregivers have many responsibilities regarding the care of their loved one. As a result, they can forget to pay attention to the details of their own life. It is very important that you schedule a time to tend to your own essential matters, like paying taxes and home maintenance. Caregiving is a long-term journey that takes place over the course of many years. It is important to take care of the details of your own life so that when your caregiving responsibilities are over, you have an organized life to return to.
4. Watch for changes in your own physical state. For caregivers, stress becomes normal and that is hazardous to their health. Weight gain, sleeplessness, irritability, inability to stick to daily habits and depression are all signs of caregiver burnout. Don’t ignore them. If you begin to notice these signs in yourself, address them. It can take years to recover from caregiver burnout but you can avoid it. Building resilience is the best way to protect your health and care for yourself along the long caregiver journey.
Keep in mind that caregiver burnout is real, there are stats and research done daily on how caregiving affects individuals well-being. As a caregiver, you’re best able to help others if you practice self-care and put yourself first from time to time. Mentally, emotionally and physically you need to be fresh and ready for the day to day demands of your job.
We encourage you to join us! The fight against Alzheimer’s Disease is going to take all of us. While we care for and comfort those suffering from the disease, we look to the day when a cure is found. Read more about Move for Minds and The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement™. In honor of professional and family caregivers around the nation we’ve opened up applications for a respite care grant – Apply here!