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Helping Those Who Help You: Preventing Caregiver Burnout

If your primary caregiver is a spouse, partner, family member, or close friend, you fully understand the tremendous responsibility they have in helping you live your daily life. Unfortunately, caregiver burnout is a common problem. Explore how to care for your primary caregiver.

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Learn how to help your caregiver avoid burnout.

After a spinal cord injury, you’ll need a significant amount of assistance, and most of it may be provided by your significant other, a family member, or a close friend. Despite how much they want to help, they may feel overwhelmed at times. While those feelings may be unavoidable, there are definitely some things you can do to help your primary caregiver avoid burnout.

Insist that they take care of themselves

Caregiving is rewarding, but it can takes its toll. A caregiver survey showed that 70% report depression, 51% have trouble sleeping, and 63% admit to having a poor diet. Plus, many caregivers neglect their own medical needs. Fully 41% have back pain, yet 55% admit to skipping doctor’s appointments.
Clearly, many caregivers don’t take care of their own emotional, nutritional, and physical needs. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Strongly encourage your primary caregiver to have regular exams with their physician, and immediately attend to any medical issues
  • Make an agreement that both of you will commit to a healthy diet, eating nutritious foods and staying hydrated daily
  • If you think your caregiver may be suffering from depression or burnout, encourage them to seek help from a trained counselor or therapist, and to join a caregiver support group
  • Insist that your primary caregiver do something fun at least once a week, such as lunch with friends, a book club meeting, or a tennis match
  • Enlist the help of other family members and friends or, if necessary, hire a trained aide or assistant to fill in so your caregiver can take some time off to recharge

Communicate honestly, convey gratitude, and deepen your bond

It’s important to be honest about your expectations of your primary caregiver, and to get outside help when needed. No matter how much your caregiver loves you and wants to care for you, shouldering 100% of the caregiving responsibility is a heavy burden. 

It’s also crucial to tell your primary caregiver how grateful you are for their care. In the weeks and months after your spinal cord injury, you’ll likely be dealing with your own strong emotions and struggling to adjust to your new circumstances. However, as time goes by and you’ve accepted and settled into your new life, don’t forget to convey gratitude as often as possible.

In addition, look to deepen your bond with your primary caregiver. There are many ways you can nurture and strengthen your relationship. Spend time discussing topics that aren’t related to your care. And consider revisiting some of the indoor and outdoor activities you did together before your spinal cord injury, even if you have to make some modifications.

The bottom line is that you can do many things to ensure that your caregiver stays healthy and happy, and avoids burnout. If you embrace that attitude, you may find that your relationship with them grows into something even more special.