Preventing Eldercare Burnout: Setting Boundaries

 

It’s hard for caregivers to learn to say no.

We want to provide the bet care possible while balancing multiple roles, the demands of illness, our communities, and the countless responsibilities of life. We are often fatigued, overworked, and unrecognized. But it is important that early on we become experts in setting boundaries as caregivers. We will always have limitations and be faced with the trap of false guilt.

So what can we do? The following tips are recommended by caregiving experts.

Set boundaries early.

  • Make a realistic list. What do you think you can do, and what do you think can’t do–both now and in the longterm. Believe it or not, you can’t do everything, and you’re not good at everything. For instance, if you’re not good at your own finances, it wouldn’t be wise to try to manage your aging parent’s money. Delegate, and talk to a lawyer who handles eldercare issues. Assist Guide Information Services (AGIS) provides comprehensive guides for caregivers.
  • Assess what will you need.This will change as time goes on. You may not need in-home care services right now, but you likely will at some point in the future. Know what types of tasks will be beyond your ability physically, financially, and in other ways. Make sure your assessment is realistic and provides a plan for the future. AARP offers a free Prepare to Care: Caregiving Planning Guide.
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Assess your health, your finances, your living situation, the distance from your loved one’s home, their health needs and longterm prognosis. What challenges lie ahead? For instance, you may desire to have your loved one in your home, your home design may make it difficult for them to live with you

 

Commit to taking care of yourself.

  • Assess your current health needs. Do you have a chronic illness that requires attention? Are you working a full-time job? What other roles and responsibilities do you need to protect?
  • Be aware of depression and signs of burnout. According to the Cleveland Clinic, caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Caregivers who are burned out may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Be aware of symptoms: withdrawing from friends, loss of interest in activities, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, weight loss or loss of appetite. Be aware that caregivers often try to meet unrealistic expectations and struggle to distinguish between their role as caregiver and spouse/child/parent, etc.
  • Be prepared to scale back if your needs begin to suffer.

 

Gather a support team.

  • If possible, find an advocate. This person assists in making connections for things you need and for gathering and distributing information on your behalf when necessary. It’s sometimes easier to have others ask on our behalf than to ask ourselves. And in times of crisis, it can be helpful to have someone serve as our contact person.
  • Ask for help. Consider family, neighbors, community services, church support, and other available assistance. Call the Area Agency on Aging in the county where you parent resides and ask for an in-home assessment and information on available resources.
  • Find a support group—online or face to face. If your loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic illness, disease-specific support groups can be helpful. Two respected general groups are the Caregivers Action Network (CAN) and the Caregiver Alliance.

For inspirational and practical reading, check out Precious Lord, Take My Hand: Meditations for Caregivers and Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey.

 

The Story Behind My Book “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

Precious Lord CoverMy mom had shown signs of dementia for more than five years before anyone in our family had the courage to say the word Alzheimer’s out loud.

To me, the word was a death sentence. My mom’s mom had suffered from dementia as well before dying of a stroke.

I simply didn’t want to think about what the end would look like for my mother.

So when a friend approached me and suggested I write a book about what it was like to be a caregiver for both my mom and my father-in-law who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, I gave serious thought to whacking her upside the head. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was write a book about how crazy my life had become.

Who’ld want to read about God-In-The-Mayhem? For instance, I was a caregiver with a recently diagnosed brain lesion. I was supposed to be resting and recuperating…

While caring for my father-in-law with mental illness and Parkinson’s and a heart condition.

And supporting our daughter who’d just returned from tsunami relief work with post-traumatic stress disorder.

And trying not to mouth-breathe over our recently-come-home prodigal son.

And did I mention that my husband and I had just moved across the country and started new jobs?

So I threw my head back and laughed in my friend’s face at the suggestion that I write a book for caregivers. No Christian publisher would print a book about mom trying to get naked in the Easter service or learning how to swear at the age of 81. But I went home and wrote out a list of what my real-life devotionals would be about–the things caregivers really struggle with.

And if I could have created a cover, it would have had a button to push that gave out a scream: “Aaaggghhh!! But God is Good.”

I thought it was a great title.

More than 100,000 copies and half a dozen years later, I’m glad my friend had the courage to ask me to be transparent about my caregiving experiences. I’m glad God gives the grace to use chaos for his glory. I’m grateful every day of my life that people find hope in the pages of Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

Life if tough. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain lesions, and other life-robbing diseases stink. In this life, we live in the tension where the qualities sin and grace co-exist. But God is good. All the time. And he did not come only to conquer sin and provide a solution. He came to take our hand and sit beside us in our suffering.

Shelly on Blogtalk Monday, February 22, 2010

Listen in Monday, February 22, 2010, from 3:30-4:30ET to Writing and Publishing Radio (www.writingandpublishingradio.com) when I spend time chatting with Felice Gerwitz about the choices and craft involved in writing memoir/personal narrative about life’s most painful experiences–the illness and death of our loved ones. Felice and I will be discussing how writers make memoir and meditation inspirational while offering readers the opportunity to grieve and lament.

I will be touching on the important elements of transparency, authenticity, restraint, humor, and grace which are woven throughout my books Precious Lord, Take My Hand: Meditations for Caregivers and Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey. Each of these elements played an important role in the message I communicated to my readers. Apart from transparency and authenticity, we cannot communicate with honesty. Without restraint, we will lose our readers in the detail and the weight of our pain. Without humor we cannot be revived and refreshed for the next step of the journey. And without grace, we have nothing to say at all and no hope to share with our readers.

Learn more about Felice Gerwitz and the ministry of Media Angels by visiting Media Angels at www.mediaangels.com.

Shelly at Dallas Christian Book Expo

 

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 This March, the first ever Christian Book Expo will be held in Dallas, Texas. I’ll be there, soaking up the excitement, meeting faithful readers, and making new friends. The event will be held at the Dallas Convention Center March 19-22.

       Full details are available on the Expo website at www.christianbookexpo.com.

morningsong-cover-jpgI’ll be signing my Christy-Award winning novel Hallie’s Heart and its much-anticipated sequel, Morningsong, at the Kregel booth on Friday from 1:00 to  1:45. I’m  especially excited that Kregel has chosen the Christian Book Expo for the release of Morningsong. This book continues the next chapters in the life of Mona VanderMolen as her niece Hallie and Mona’s sister Ellen begin new lives in Stewartville.

 

Look for me at the Barbour booth for meet-and-greet events on Saturday, March 21, from 11-12 and 3-4. I’ll be glad to discuss caregiving issues with you, just visit, or sign copies of Precious Lord, Take My Hand: Meditation for Caregivers or Ambushed by Grace: Help, Hope, and Heart Transformation on the Caregiving Journey. These books make great gifts for caregiving friends or your church library, and I always appreciate the opportunity to personalize books with a note of encouragement.

Please get the word out to your friends and family about this exciting event. Check out the Christian Book Expo website for a detailed listing of special activities, seminars, educational sessions, and inspirational opportunities.

And if you don’t stop by to see me, I’ll have to hunt you down!