Carer burnout can be difficult to avoid. The demands of being a carer for someone living with lung disease or lung cancer can be exhausting. Lung Foundation Australia has composed five tips to help you look after your own physical and emotional needs while caring for a love one.
As a carer, you may find yourself putting the needs of the person you care for before your own needs. It’s important to look after yourself as well. When you are healthy, both mentally and physically, you can do your best job as a carer.
What is carer burnout?
Caring for your loved one can be very rewarding. However, it also presents various stressors. It is often a long-term challenge, with the emotional impact sometimes leading to feelings of helplessness and great stress.
Carer burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Caregivers can experience burnout at any time. Learning to recognise the clear signs of carer burnout and stress is important. Symptoms of carer burnout present themselves differently for each person. However common symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased intake of alcohol
- Decreased levels of energy
- Constantly exhausted
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Difficulty relaxing when help is available
- Neglecting own needs
- Constantly feeling tired, even after a long break
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Frequent headaches or bodily pain
- Having a lack of privacy
If you are experiencing any of the above signs or symptoms, it is time to make yourself a priority. You need to look to some of your needs.
Lung Foundation Australia has compiled five tips to help prevent carers burnout. Read on:
Connect to a Peer Support Group
Designed to bring people with similar experiences together, peer support groups for carers offer a way to help each other cope with the challenges of caring for someone with a lung condition. These groups offer a safe environment to feel heard and understood.
Lung Foundation Australia offers a selection of peer support groups for carers. These groups are available both online or in-person.
Make time for yourself
Finding time for yourself is very important. Taking care of others takes a toll, especially if it is a long-term proposition, and carer burnout is a real possibility. A great deal of research has gone into the emotional and physical toll that caring for a chronically ill person has. The most reported thing that carers miss out on is time for self-care. Without it, you will burn out and be less able to care for the person you love. Making time for yourself is not selfish, it is wise.
Self-care will look different for everyone. It could include things like:
- Making time for a walk, or cup of coffee
- Exercising to release your stress. Even if it is just for 10 minutes a day
- Catch up with a friend to do something you enjoy.
It is impossible to stay positive all the time. You can’t always stay optimistic and hopeful while watching a loved one struggle with a lung condition. The good news is there are strategies you can use to help with a positive outlook.
- Grieving: The key to supporting someone living with a lung condition and remaining as positive as possible is to allow yourself to grieve and be sad along the way. Grieving is not just the sadness we feel when a person we care about dies, grief happens when we lose things that are important to us or when major changes happen in our lives. We grieve lost hopes and dreams. Feelings of grief and sadness won’t last forever but are integral to adjusting to your ‘new normal’.
- Confront realities: Another trick to staying as positive as possible is to talk about ‘the elephant in the room’ – the disease, fears, realities, possibilities and how you might manage the challenges. Too many carers try to protect their loved one by putting on a brave face and not talking about fears and concerns. In most cases, the reality is that your partner is busy trying to protect you too by also not voicing their worries, fears and concerns. Talking and crying about it together can bring you closer and let the other know that they can talk about the ‘untalkable’.
While taking care of someone else, it’s easy to forget about ensuring you maintain a healthy diet. Eating healthy foods maintains energy and allows the body to access all the nutrients to function properly. It also assists to maintain a healthy immune system which will help you fight off viruses and other bugs.
There are lots of different ways you can seek support in your role as a carer. This could include:
- Speaking with a professional can help to re-frame the negativity you experience in your role as a carer. You can speak with one of Lung Foundation Australia’s support nurses including: Respiratory Care Nurse, Lung Cancer Support Nurse or our Silicosis Support Nurse
- Asking loved ones to help with specific tasks such as dropping off meals, picking up supplies, taking the patient to a doctor’s appointment, or keeping them company while you take some time out for yourself.
In addition to peer support groups and support nurses, Lung Foundation has a free social worker service and Mind Matters resources which offer further advice for carers.
To reach out for support, you can contact Lung Foundation Australia’s Information and Support Centre on free call 1800 654 301 or email us here. Our friendly team can connect you with the services and support that will best suit your individual needs and circumstances.