Taking care of your loved one who is ill is second nature. If it’s for a short while and your loved one progresses to improvement then all seems well with the universe with regard to the sacrifice. There is thanksgiving, happiness, testimony, and rejoicing.

But when there is a decline in functioning, the caregiver can become physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted. All the positive energy can turn to negativity and an unconcerned nature.

So how can the caregiver keep abreast of signs of burning out or being stressed to the maximum?

You may ask… What are some of the signs? Some, but not all of the signs are inclusive of: Irritability; loss of interest in usual activities; feeling depressed; withdrawing from the usual company of family and/or friends; decreasing amounts of sleep; feeling of hurting the one you are caring for; falling ill more often.

If some or all of these signs are familiar then what can one do to balance this stressful situation?

  • Look at every problem as an opportunity. Identify the issues that lead up to this state because as a caregiver you did not start burned out.

  • Set realistic goals about expectations of your loved one’s specific illness and functionality. Often we want our 80 year old family member to completely recover to their 30 year old self. Research the disease state, treatments(medical and non-medical), and prognosis. Talk to the health care provider(s) and be involved in the treatment plan in order to know what to expect at any given stage.

  • Ask for help. Even if it’s just you and your loved one in a certain location away from close family, there are community groups, religious groups, social workers or other medical personnel, or support groups specific to your loved one’s illness that are willing to be there. All you have to do is seek and you will find. Some can help, even for a for a few hours.

  • Set realistic goals with regard to your physical, emotional, and mental limits. Accept what you are humanly capable of doing.

  • Make time for yourself. Just like you take rest after your 8 hour work day, being a caregiver is also tiring as well. Take a load off once in a while to rejuvenate.

  • Talk out your frustrations to someone you trust. It can be a therapist, friend, or clergy member. Don’t keep it bottled inside because it will likely blow out of proportion when the stress increases to exponential proportions.

  • What you put in is what you put out. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get a reasonable amount of sleep. You need to remain healthy.

  • Get back in tune with your loved one and don’t refer to them in your mind as a burden. Treat them as you would want to be treated if the situation were reversed.

  • Remain positive. Listen to your motivational tapes. Play “Eye of the Tiger” from the Rocky movies. Meditate. Do what you have to do to maintain positive energy. It may be difficult at times but that is life.

These are just a few guidelines. Do not burn out. You need your loved one and your loved one needs you.