How VHAN’s Care Management Team Prevents Caregiver Burnout

Anyone who has ever experienced a serious illness or cared for a loved one living through a complex or chronic condition knows about the indispensable help that caregivers provide. But as well-intentioned as they are, caregivers can stay so busy giving to others that they neglect their own health.

When you consider the multiple demands on a caregiver, it’s not surprising that the situation can lead to fatigue and burnout. In addition to the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, many caregivers also feel guilty when they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones.

During a recent checkup call with a 75-year-old male patient with a history of stroke, a VHAN RN Care Navigator talked to the patient’s wife, who spoke of feeling stressed and overwhelmed. After working full-time and serving for some time as the primary income provider, she was exhibiting classic signs of caregiver burnout—exhaustion combined with feelings of hopelessness and isolation.

Over several calls, the social worker not only gave much-needed support, but she provided counseling for the wife, going over skills for coping with stress and teaching her some boundary-setting and self-care techniques.

The alert care navigator’s intervention made a tangible difference to the patient’s wife, which subsequently helped the patient, too. The team also gave her information on a statewide respite care network that could help her get necessary breaks from caregiving and decrease feelings of burnout and stress.

Practical Tips: 9 Ways to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
While stress and depression are treatable disorders, the best defense is always awareness and prevention. Here are a few steps that can be taken to help prevent caregiver burnout:

  1. Talk about your feelings and frustrations with a friend or loved one.
  2. Set realistic goals and accept that you may need help with caregiving.
  3. Don’t forget about yourself. Self-care is a must for caregivers.
  4. Consult a professional if needed. Social workers, clergy members, and therapists can be helpful in counseling caregivers on ways to deal with burnout.
  5. Know your limits and recognize your own potential for caregiver burnout.
  6. Take advantage of respite care services that provide a temporary break for caregivers. 
  7. Educate yourself. The more you know about the illness, the more effective you will be as a caregiver. 
  8. Use humor to help deal with everyday stresses.
  9. Eat a nutritious diet and get plenty of exercise and sleep.
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