VA Maryland Health Care System
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout
Being a caregiver for someone you love can be rewarding, but also extremely stressful. At the VA Maryland Health Care System, the Caregiver Support Program promotes the health and wellbeing of family members who care for veterans patients. "Caregivers have a difficult job. Seventy-four percent report that their role as a caregiver has created marital strain," said Sharon Kelly, coordinator for the VA Maryland Health Care System Caregiver Support Program. "Other stressors include having less time with children, sleep deprivation, and high levels of anxiety and stress." While the VA Maryland Health Care System offers resources to those caring for our nation's veterans, caregivers everywhere need respite care—the chance to take a breather and re-energize. "People think of respite care as a luxury, but considering caregivers' increased risk for health issues from chronic stress, respite is one of the keys to prevent caregiver burnout," Kelly says, adding that "respite is the most frequently requested support services for family caregivers."
VA Maryland Health Care System caregiver support expert gives tips to avoid caregiver burnout and for caregiver self-care:
- Learn about the condition or illness – learn as much as you can about the veteran's condition, how it affects physical and mental health, and how it could change over time.
- Ask for help – feel good about the hard work that you do, but remember that you can't do it all. You will need help from others.
- Learn about community sources for support and help. Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors, and to others within worship communities and at your workplace for help with caregiver tasks or respite care.
- Take breaks – find some time each day when you can safely step away from your work.
- Find time to exercise, eat well and to sleep enough to minimize stress.
- Take care of your health – to give the best care to your loved one, you need to stay in good health. Visit your doctor every year for a checkup and get the flu shot.
- Stay positive – be realistic about what you can and cannot do. It will help you keep a positive attitude.
- Talk to your doctor if feeling depressed or anxious. Signs that you may need help include crying more, sleeping more or less than usual, changes in appetite, and lack of interest in regular activities.