Feb 21st 2020

Providers, Your Patients' Caregivers Need Some TLC

Being a caregiver for a loved one can be an extremely stressful job—unlike working a typical 8 hour day, the expectations of a caregiver can be 24/7.

Healthcare professionals can help lighten some of the mental and emotional stress that caregivers shoulder by acknowledging this burden, and by offering guidance on how caregivers can find the help they need.

Acknowledge your patients' caregivers

Caregivers can't care for your patients if they're falling apart at the seams themselves. Showing some appreciation for caregivers and the important role they play goes a long way.

Consider:

How much time do you spend checking in with the caregivers of your patients?

Do you affirm them in their role and let them know that you understand that they have a challenging job?

Do you ask them how they're feeling and how they're coping?

Do you respond with empathy to their answers?

Do you offer guidance or resources so that they can better cope with the situation?

Strategies for self-care

Some caregivers may be aware that they're getting burned out, but have little idea what to do about it.

Here is a list of helpful tips you can provide to the caregivers of your patients:

Watch for signs of stress. Everybody has a different tolerance for stress. Be aware of your stress threshold and monitor yourself for signs that you're getting close to reaching it. Then take steps to reduce your stress levels.

Ask for help. Many caregivers believe that they're the only ones who can watch their loved ones. But other people can step in and help, whether it's taking on a few hours of direct caregiving duty, or running errands, or helping with chores. Find people you can call upon for help. It's perfectly fine to accept help when you need it.

Make arrangements for respite care. Every caregiver needs to take a break on a regular basis. In fact, the National Center on Caregiving specifically advises caregivers to take a break and do something unrelated to caregiving. Call upon someone from your network of trusted friends and family members, or you can call in a professional caregiver.

Find a support network. Only other caregivers can quite understand what you're going through. Reaching out to a buddy or joining a support group for caregivers can provide much needed moral support. Counseling may be helpful too.

Don't neglect your own health. If you neglect your own health, you won't be able to continue taking care of your loved one. Get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and consult with your doctor to ensure you're addressing your own healthcare needs.

Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise is a great stress-reducer, which every caregiver needs. Find some time each day to walk, jog, swim, practice yoga, or whatever activity appeals to you.

Take advantage of community resources. The National Center on Caregiving recommends using local community resources and services that can lighten the load. For example, if you are taking of an older adult, you may be able to sign up for Meals on Wheels or other programs for seniors. Other useful sources for help include local senior centers and Area Agencies on Aging.

Caregivers appreciate reassurance and assistance

If possible, provide your patients' caregivers with a printed handout featuring the self-care steps above. In addition, verbal reassurance can be helpful too.

Knowing they can turn to you and your team for help at any time can be a tremendous relief—and even more so if such assistance is offered every time they visit your office, so it's clear it's not a one-time offer.