Category Archives: Hospice

Caring for the Caregiver-Preventing Caregiver Burnout

Utah Home Health Care ServicesWe all want to provide the best care possible for our loved ones. Yet, sometimes we need to ask the question: Who is caring for the caregiver? Caregiver burnout is a legitimate concern for any family or person who provides ongoing service to physically or mentally dependent individuals.

WebMD lists a few symptoms of Caregiver Burnout:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Feeling blue, helpless, hopeless
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Loss of appetite
  • Getting sick more frequently

You might notice these symptoms are similar to symptoms of depression. Counseling and support groups can help lift the emotional burden of a full-time or part-time caregiver who finds herself overwhelmed. And unlike chronic clinical depression, which may require medication in combination with other supportive treatment, caregiver burnout can often be resolved without medication. All we need is a little common sense and willingness to use some of that wonderful, caring energy (that we offer our patients or loved ones) to care for ourselves.

Interestingly, I learned the lesson about how to be a good, healthy caregiver during my years of raising a family as a single parent. I used this knowledge both at home and in my career as a nurse. And I learned the lesson from our family cat. You read that right–a cat.

Midnight was an indoor-outdoor cat, a combination of street cat and diva and I came to love her for this. She was keen, hard-working and a great mom to her kittens. (Stay with me here. I promise you’ll be glad you did.)

One afternoon I retreated to my bedroom to fold laundry on the bed, away from the sounds of TV and whatever else was going on in the house. It must have been a Saturday because it was mid-day and I was at home. Most other days I would have been at work. A few days earlier Midnight had given birth to a litter of kittens in a blanket-lined box in my closet. As I folded towels and matched socks, I watched her caring for her newborn kittens. She nursed them, cleaned them, let them cuddle next to her. Then she did something that surprised me. She left her babies.

She got up from where she was lying, stepped over them, and left those newborn-blind, helpless kittens mewing plaintively in their box. They began feeling around, smelling for her, trembling as they tried to walk on tiny paws. And she just walked away. I stopped what I was doing to watch. I remember feeling sorry for the kittens. But I also felt compelled to follow Midnight to see where she was going.

She went to her food dish. She ate. She drank. She went outside and did her business. Then she came back in the living room, found a spot on the floor where a shaft of light had warmed the carpet and she lay down. She cleaned herself, stretched her legs, laid her head on her paws and closed her eyes.

That’s when it hit me. BAM! This cat instinctively cares for herself. No one has to tell her what to do. She doesn’t buy books about feline co-dependence or how to be a good mommy cat. She doesn’t call her cat sister on her cat telephone to cry about how hard it is to care for her babies by herself. She doesn’t get angry or depressed about the burdens she bears. She leaves her kittens safe and sound and follows her natural instincts to care for herself so she can care for her offspring. Period. End of story. Her cat brain does not allow her to over-ride her instincts like a human brain does.

Midnight’s example of self-care was all I needed to bring more balance to my life of caring for my children. I was doing the best I could. I stopped feeling bad about the time I spent in my garden, which was relaxing and regenerative for me. I made sure to provide regular lunch dates for myself with friends. I joined a writer’s group. I started paying attention to my physical, emotional and spiritual resources and began responding in a more organic, instinctive way to cues of stress and exhaustion. This may be when I began taking routine afternoon naps and saying “no” to some requests for my time. I realized that my own instincts were the landmarks nature gave me to define my mothering and care-giving limits.

We each have our own limits. We can avoid becoming burned out by

  • feeling good about what we CAN do
  • honestly admitting our limits
  • asking for help when we need it
  • being a good caregiver to our self first and foremost – taking time to regenerate

By doing these things, we ensure we will be there to care for our loved ones as long as possible and in the very best possible ways.

If you feel you need help, please call or email us to see if your loved one qualifies for homecare services. We can also help you find community resources that may be available to you.

What has worked for you? What is your greatest challenge as a caregiver?

We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

The WOW Factor: Wisdom and Wit In Homecare

Envision Home Health and Hospice serves patients of varying ages and with a variety of needs. However, the majority of our patients are older adults. As a result, we have numerous opportunities not only to care for these individuals, but also to learn from their wisdom and wit. Here on the Envision blog, we’d like to share some of these unique and wonderful moments with you from time-to-time. We call them WOW moments.

WOW stands for “Words of Wisdom and Wit.” Home health care is full of them.

Now, for today’s story . . .

James [not his real name] is a gentleman who has passed the eighty-year mark. He is a bright, energetic man who does not look his age. (Of course, the older I get as a nurse, the younger my patients seem to look.) James finds ways to remain youthful in spite of physical limitations and occasional setbacks from health problems. He has supportive family around him and he refuses to allow his difficulties to discourage him. Maybe he is one of the lucky ones who was blessed with the happiness gene. To be honest, he’s not necessarily a smiley or jovial person. He is more of a dry humor type, but his contentment and positive attitude comes across in every interaction I’ve had with him.

Young & Old

The WOW moment came when I commented on his youthful appearance and his generally pleasant mood – even when his physical therapy is demanding or when he gets bad news about the need for yet another doctor’s visit.

His response was, “No matter how long I live, I’m determined to die young.”

Thank you, James. I’m saving that one for a rainy day. Or even a sunny day! May we all stay young for the rest of our lives!

WOW moments are one of many reasons why Envision is among the best places to work. If you are interested in joining the Envision team, please call us at 1-866-471-5733 or visit this link. We’d love to hear from you! Maybe you have your own WOW moment to share. Feel free to write about it in the comment section below.

How to Support a Grieving Friend Who has Lost a Loved One

Grieving Man 8x10Unfortunately, it’s likely to happen to each of us when we least expect it: we hear the news that a friend or family member has lost a loved one through an unexpected or expected death. We may have an immediate feeling of doubt about how we should respond. What do we say? What do we do? What if we say or do the wrong thing?

These are important questions because what we say or do can either relieve emotional pain or make it worse.

Yet, by understanding a few important things about grieving and mourning we can be confident that we can help and not hurt.

Understand the Many Faces of Emotional Shock

Even when a death is expected—like after a long, serious illness—your friend is probably experiencing a roller coaster of strong emotions. According to the American Cancer Society, the shock of losing a loved one can manifest itself anywhere from disbelief, anger, uncertainty, denial or numbness. In my own experience, I’ve seen people whose numbness is misinterpreted as peace or acceptance, leading others to say, “She’s so strong” or “He’s taking this so well”—yet when the funeral is over and everyone has gone home, they fall apart.

Remember that your friend is likely to feel many emotional ups and downs—and a period of “strength” might be followed by real anguish.

Communicate Your Sorrow Simply

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” or “I wish I knew what to say…please know that I care,” are simple and comforting ways to let your friend know that you care.  When we stray into clichés—like “She’s in a better place now,” or “It was his time to go,”—the person who is grieving may feel wounded because they simply want their loved one at their side. This can be especially true of parents who have lost children.

If you’re completely unsure of what to say, being nearby—yet silent—also communicates that you care.

Show Your Support through Service

You can decrease your own feelings of helplessness or powerlessness by serving your grieving friend. However, during the strongest moments of grief your friend may not be able to tell you what he or she needs. If that’s the case, you might consider doing anything that may be helpful—like mowing their lawn, doing their dishes, or helping them with the funeral. But remember that your service shouldn’t end with the funeral.

Thoughtful service will continue to show your concern.

Listening May Be the Most Helpful Thing You Can Do

Your friend may need to talk often. He or she may have to discuss the details of their loved one’s death—and may need to talk about it repeatedly. This can be part of the grieving process and you can help by being a patient, non-judgmental, listening ear.

But take your cues from your friend because talking about their loved one might be painful. One friend recently told me, “One of the most difficult things for us was when someone would…casually [mention our child’s name]. To us, mentioning his name was a reverent thing that we didn’t do very often except among each other. Even then, we were careful about it. It felt very jarring when others were too casual about it.”

Don’t Rush the Grieving Process

Experts in the field of emotional health and grieving concur that the process—and timeframe—of grieving is different for everyone. As a friend, you need to be ready for the long haul. It may literally take years for a grieving person to feel stable with their emotions. Encouraging them to “get outside” and take part in social activities may be helpful, but shouldn’t be forced. Give your friend time to adjust to their feelings and emotions and don’t be surprised if their grieving lasts much longer than you expect.

Don’t be Offended if Your Friend Shows Anger

Anger can be a normal emotion during the grieving process. Grief can heighten negative emotions and a normally kind person who is grieving may strike out at others emotionally. Understand that it’s a product of their grief and don’t take it personally. You can support them best by maintaining a level head and forgiving them when they’re not at their best.

Grief and Mourning Shouldn’t be Interpreted as a Lack of Religious Faith

About half the people in the world believe in an afterlife—and that belief is typically tied to religious views. While those who are grieving may find comfort in their belief that their loved one lives on in some other realm, that belief may not override the pain of separation. Often, grieving is about being separated from our loved ones—regardless of our beliefs.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so please leave a comment in the comments box. I also invite you to subscribe to this blog—which will cover a variety of healthcare topics.

A short post can’t cover everything, so if you’d like more information on this topic I encourage you to research the Five Stages of Grief by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Also, see the U.S. Government’s excellent “A LifeCare Guide to Helping Others Cope with Grief.” If you’re concerned that your friend’s grief has developed into thoughts of hurting themselves or others, please contact a mental health professional.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Bailey Rae Bullock, Matthew Bullock, Dan Bishop, Joe Adams, Michelle Pereira, and the many others whose passing profoundly affected me.