If you’re caring for a person with a terminal illness, you’ve encountered the unique challenges of balancing your life with hospice care.
While it’s important to provide the best care possible for your loved one, it’s equally important to care for yourself. Providing for someone else’s needs without paying attention to your own can lead to burnout, so be sure to check in with yourself periodically.
As caregivers, you tend to focus all your attention on the ones under your care, but in this post, you’re going to take a look at yourself. How do you feel? What should you do when you start to feel worn thin or burnt out?
Here are some ways burnout can affect you and a few tips to help you combat it so you can be your best self with everyone, especially the person you’re caring for.
How to Determine You Need a Break
The first rule of taking care of yourself when you’re the caregiver is learning how to recognize when you need a break. Like any occupation, hospice care can be stressful. The hours are long, and the emotional toll can be severe.
Hospice caregivers, social workers, and others who work with populations where emotional trauma is common can suffer from something known as compassion fatigue. It’s characterized by emotional exhaustion and if left unheeded, it can lead caregivers to burnout.
So, how do you know when you need a break?
Signs of burnout can include the following:
- Extreme Fatigue: Exhaustion, loss of interest in hobbies and socializing with friends, or sleeping too much.
- Emotional Disturbance: Feelings of anxiety, depression, or hopelessness. Experiencing impatience or frustration with your friends, family, or the person you’re caring for.
- Decreased Immune Function: Increased risk of sickness from any cause. Prevalence of headaches, intestinal distress, and other physical ailments
Now that you know how to gauge your fatigue levels, you can recognize when you need to take some time for yourself.
5 Tips for Hospice Caregivers
If you’re a hospice caregiver, what are some important self-care techniques you can use in your daily routine to keep yourself balanced?
One of the easiest ways to look after yourself is by maintaining a healthy diet. This can be especially challenging when your focus is on caring for someone else but taking the time to prepare or purchase healthy meals can contribute to your well-being.
Not only does a healthy diet maintain your physical health, but also it gives you the nutrients your brain needs to keep you sharp.
Drinking enough water is just as important as eating healthy meals, if not more so. A full glass of water right after you wake up can energize you and jump start your day. If you have trouble drinking enough water every day, use a refillable water bottle you enjoy drinking from.
Make sure you get to bed at a reasonable hour every night. If you have trouble falling asleep, limit your screen time late in the day to prepare your body for sleep.
Even a brief walk in the morning or evening can help you maintain your cardiovascular health and manage stress. If you have a dog or a friend who can come with you, they can help you make and keep an exercise routine.
Take regular breaks throughout the day to recharge your internal batteries. Take a walk around the block, or read a chapter of a book to help ease stress and unwind.
The Importance of Taking Care of the Caregiver
You might be tempted to put your own needs aside when caring for a loved one with a terminal illness, but your needs are important, too. If you’re energetic and fresh, you’re ready to provide the proper level of care to your loved one.
In order to create an environment where your loved one feels secure and cared for, you’ll need to be physically healthy and mentally ready for the challenges of hospice caregiving.
Often, your mood can affect your loved one, so remember, you’re not alone. Ask for help when you need it; after all, you know best when it comes to the safety and care of your hospice patient. You’ll find plenty of people willing to help you.
Kindful Hospice Can Help
If you are a hospice caregiver who feels the strain of balancing your life and hospice care, Kindful Hospice can help. We have resources to keep you healthy and emotionally balanced while you care for your loved one. We have a network of volunteers ready to help you cope with the stress of caring for a terminally ill person, as well as counselors and chaplains to tend to your emotional needs. Reach out to us for more details about how we can support you and your loved one.