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You're a caregiver; burned out, exhausted, angry. You can't possibly do more for your loved one. You want to escape the situation yet wonder how you ever got to this point. You're the person at work who takes the extra shifts, who pitches in when help is needed. Whether you are a caregiver at home or a caring type at work isn't it time to look at how your actions are contributing to the situation?
The effects of caregiver burnout are significant and will impact your life. It's documented; caregiving results in death and disease. Many of the caregiver burnout situations I navigate result from the caregiver taking on too much but not realizing they've done so until it's too late. In the workplace it's a situation of feeling that you're the only one who can come to the rescue. This happens so frequently that others depend on you to rescue them. You become the doormat for others to stomp on and it's finally wearing on you.Caregiving begins innocently and with good intentions. The caregiver feels a sense of duty and dedication. The situation proceeds to the primary caregiver or caring type at work wanting total control over the person or project -- not feeling that other family members, caregivers or co-workers are carrying their weight, they push others away. In the workplace the person doing this initially feels important; their feathers ruffle like a proud peacock, because they consistently leap tall buildings. Over time this feeling wanes to one of anger.
It's become a situation of control by a caregiver or helpful person who believes they are indispensible. No one cares as much as I do. No one will do for my loved one the things I will do. No one this, no one that. These are toxic thoughts. It's unhealthy to think that you as one person, the caregiver, can or should meet anyone's total needs. Stop! You're killing yourself and likely making everyone else miserable, including your loved one who feels you are overbearing but doesn't want to say anything for fear of retribution. You're the person at work who everyone will take advantage of because you've created the situation by always being helpful. You're the bully in this drama you've created all by yourself.
Family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. Caring for a loved one can shorten life by as much as ten years.1 Elderly spousal caregivers with a chronic illness are 63% more likely to die than their non caregiving peers.2 Being the hero in this drama will negatively affect your life, if not now, later when you're in the place of the person for whom you're providing care.
You're stressed because you are experiencing grief associated with the decline in health of your loved one. Your feelings are valid. One day you were the son, the daughter, the husband or wife. The next day you're the caregiver dealing with the change in role with your loved one. In the workplace you started out as an equal and now you're the doormat that everyone walks over.
In life it's the little things that catch us, snag us because we lose perspective of the larger picture.
It's time for you to take the first step. Time for a reality check. Step away for an hour, an afternoon, a day. How did the situation come to be as it is? Ask for help, talk to your loved one, hire outside assistance, talk to your boss. Say no to unreasonable requests. Regain balance in your life. It's not easy but you can do it with persistence. Do something to change the current situation so that you can become a person who cares rather than a burned out, exhausted and angry caregiver or co-worker. Your attitude shows.
(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Informal Caregiving: Compassion in Action. Washington, DC: 1998, and National Family Caregivers Association, Random Sample Survey of Family Caregivers, summer 2000, Unpublished)
(2) Drs. Janice-Kiecolt Glaser and Ronald Glaser, "Chronic stress and age-related increases in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 30, 2003. 2) Source: Arno, Peter S., "Economic Value of Informal Caregiving," presented at the Care Coordination and the Caregiving Forum, Dept. of Veterans Affairs, NIH, Bethesda, MD, January 25-27, 2006.
Copyright 2011 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved.
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