Helpful Tips to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2021 | Last updated: December 2022
If you have ever flown on an airplane, you know the airline staff tell you to place an oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others. This good advice may be applied to your life as a caregiver, too. It can be easy to neglect yourself as you care for someone else. By focusing on your self care, you will be able to provide the best care possible for others.
Why self-care is important
Caregiving is hard, demanding work. One sign of this: According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, roughly 6 out of 10 caregivers show signs of depression. Caregivers also take more prescription drugs than their peers.1
Different activities may need to be managed each day, such as physical or occupational therapy and doctor’s appointments. Routines may be disrupted when seizures are unpredictable. Caregivers may have unrealistic expectations and hope their hard work results in better health or happiness of their loved one when this is not possible.2
It can be hard to ask for help with caregiving, especially if you feel like you should be able to handle it yourself. Most people feel like they are imposing on others or failing if they ask for help. However, you need to rest and recharge in order to take care of your loved one. Giving yourself breaks prevents burnout and preserves your health so you can keep on caregiving.
Ask for help
A home healthcare service may be an option to help you with daily tasks like bathing, dressing, physical and occupational therapy, or medicine management. Family and friends may be able to watch over your loved one while you run errands or get some exercise.
If the stress of caregiving interferes with daily life or feels overwhelming, a counselor, therapist, or clergy member may help you manage your emotions and stressors. Some people resist counseling. It may help to think of a therapist as someone who helps you with mental and emotional problems the same way a doctor helps you with physical problems.
Remember, you do not have to do it all yourself. Many people may ask, "What can I do to help?" People like to be helpful, so let them. Keep a list in your head, online or on paper, with specific tasks that would be helpful. Suggestions include:1,2
- Picking up groceries
- Running to the pharmacy
- Helping with chores
- Cooking a meal
- Driving you to an event or appointment
- Giving you a chance to be alone
- Spending time with your loved one
Learn to say no
If your loved one progressively needs more care, you may find yourself being asked to do too many things outside of caregiving. You may have to learn to say no in order to preserve your energy for what is most necessary. Someone else may have to host family gatherings or organize the parent-teacher group. You may have to simplify meals and adjust your expectations. It is okay to set limits.
Tips for self-care
Here are some other ways you can care for yourself while also caring for someone with epilepsy:1,2
- Make sure you are eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water
- Join a caregiver’s support group, in person or online – or both
- Make time to see friends
- Take breaks throughout the day
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Lean on faith-based support
- Ask for help when you need it
Resources for epilepsy caregivers
If you need help or support while taking care of your loved one, start with your loved one’s epilepsy care team. They will likely be able to tell you about local resources geared toward caregivers and epilepsy support groups. Some support options for caregivers include:1-3
- The Epilepsy Foundation offers a variety of support services through local chapters across the United States.
- Find local chapters at https://www.epilepsy.com/affiliates.
- National groups like The Arc, the Easter Seal Society, and the United Cerebral Palsy Association may offer respite services for caregivers of those with epilepsy. Respite care is short-term care for people with disabilities that allows their caregiver a break.
- Local schools, government agencies, and churches may offer day programs and other help.
- The ARCH National Respite Network offers a database of caregiver support by state.
Remember, caregiving is hard work and can be a full-time job. Asking for help or admitting you cannot do it alone is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is a sign of strength. Dealing with the ins and outs of this illness can be stressful. This is why it is especially helpful to recognize when you need a break or help.