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Welcome to the Caring for Yourself Webpage

This page is directed towards in-home providers and provides information on how to deal with the down-side of being a care provider. The following topics are covered in this page:

Avoiding Burnout

How can you tell when you are suffering burnout?

Dealing with Stress

Managing your time

Setting Limits

Tasks and Timelines

Your Needs

Avoiding Burnout

Caring for yourself means avoiding burnout. To avoid burnout you need to:

  • Know your limits

  • Effectively deal with stress

  • Hire and train substitutes when you need a break

  • Post appropriate information

  • Develop a private pay contract

  • Keep good records

The life of an in-home provider can be very busy. If you were to list the things you do in providing care to a person in his/her home, you might include:

  • Assist in activities of daily living - bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, toileting, and mobility.
  • Complete treatments or procedures as trained by a RN or other health care professional including managing medications as ordered by the physician or nurse practitioner
  • Plan, prepare, and serve meals
  • Arrange for and/or conduct activities with employer
  • Clean house
  • Launder clothes, bedding, and linens
  • Change bed linens
  • Wash dishes
  • Shop for groceries and other needs
  • Provide or arrange for transportation of employer
  • Make and receive telephone calls
  • Set up appointments
  • Meet with families, health care professionals, and case managers
  • Maintain records
  • Keep track of employer?s needs for prescription refills, clothing, and personal items
  • Do bookkeeping and other business paperwork

Burnout can interfere with your ability to be a patient, understanding, and caring support provider. It is like a progressive illness, which slowly takes its toll on your physical health and mental outlook. How susceptible you are to burnout may depend on your attitudes and expectations. Attitudes, direct actions, and expectations affect evaluation of those actions. Positive attitudes and realistic expectations can enhance your physical and psychological well being. The best way to deal with burnout is to prevent it.

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How can you tell when you are suffering burnout?

Symptoms vary from person to person. Signs to watch for are:

  • Changes in physical or health status:
  • General fatigue
    Difficulty sleeping
    Frequent illness
    Compulsive eating; not eating at all
    Dependence on drugs or alcohol
  • Changes in emotional status or behavior:
  • Anger, impatience, irritability
    Feeling of being trapped, overburdened, or overwhelmed
    Feeling all alone
    Sadness or depression
    Feeling out of control
    Shouting at or hitting others
    Negative attitude
    Distancing self from residents and their families
    Changes in mental status
    Difficulty concentrating

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Dealing with Stress

There are many ways to deal with stress. What is effective for one person may not be for another. General guidelines are:

Eat a well-balanced diet
Eating right supplies you with the nutrients and calories you need for good health and energy to do your work.

Take stock of yourself
Be aware of the way you talk to yourself and relate to others. Are any of your attitudes self-defeating, or do you try to follow "be perfect" scripts? Do you try to convert others to your ideas? These behaviors can drain your energy. You may need to be kinder to yourself and more tolerant of the way others think and feel. Substitute positive for negative attitudes. Try to be more flexible in your thinking.

Assess your attitudes about caregiving
If you think that your employer?s needs are more important than your own, or that you are the only person who can provide the needed care, you are likely to become over involved. You may teach "helplessness" instead of self-help. Setting limits with your employers does not mean you are not committed to them. Your resources are limited. You cannot do everything or do everything well.

Align your expectations with reality
In so doing, you will lessen your frustrations and build your confidence. Outcomes are never complete failures (or successes). Take satisfaction that each challenge offers you greater insight into yourself and others. Focus on things you have done that have gone right. Mistakes happen; learn from them and make changes, but don't count them. If you do what you set out to do, you have done your part well.

Simplify your life
Reduce the stressors in your personal and professional life. How to set limits, when to get help, and how to hire staff are discussed later.

Use positive coping techniques
To relieve stress, some people chop wood, clean closets, take a brisk walk, read a good book, take a relaxing bath, visit with a friend, or watch television. What are your favorite ways to relax? Make a list and put it where you will see it. Do at least one thing on your list each day. Be alert to signs that you are not coping well. Compulsive eating or increased use of alcohol or use of drugs signal trouble. Seek professional help if necessary.

Attend to your spiritual needs
Develop inner peace and strength in your own special way (attend a church or synagogue, explore nature, meditate, listen to music, read poetry).

Plan for respite/substitute help
When you need to take care of personal business or take vacation time, you must get someone to cover for you. Be sure to have a plan for getting a substitute caregiver. Plan well in advance whenever possible. This plan needs to include any times that you might wake up feeling sick or for any reason must miss work without advance warning and arrangements.

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Managing your time

Remember, you have a right and responsibility to meet your own needs. You must respect yourself as a person and as a professional care provider, only then will you have the ability to meet the needs of others.

Practicing time management skills can help you feel and be in control of your life.

Time management involves:

Planning your time
Setting limits and saying "no" when appropriate
Getting help when needed:

To plan how you can best use your time you first need to review how your time is being spent. The simplest way to gather the information you need is to keep a record of how you spend your time each day for a week. The Tasks and Timelines form is designed for this purpose (instructions and a sample form are at the end of this section). The completed form shows:

What tasks you performed daily in:

Providing care for residents

Managing your business

Taking care of yourself

Total time you spent on each task for each day and the week

Total time per week you spent on tasks in the three activity areas

Once you have established how you spend your time and how much time is spent, ask whether you are expecting too much of yourself. Do you need to set limits on the number and types of tasks you do, or on the amount of time you spend doing them? Are there tasks with which you need help? Do you need more time for yourself? Unrealistic expectations about what you can handle or accomplish can be a major source of stress.

Follow these guidelines in planning your time:

Set goals for yourself. Make "to do" lists of what you want to get done in a certain period of time (in a day, week, month, six months, year). Try to be realistic. Ask yourself "What can I really get done in a day or week?" Routinely complete and review your task list.

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Setting Limits

Build in flexibility. Do not schedule every minute; plan for "free time" every day. A day will seldom go exactly as planned. A daily schedule is a guide to follow. Some days not all scheduled tasks will get completed, due to a crisis or other unexpected event. Reschedule tasks when necessary.

Alternate physical or stressful tasks with less difficult tasks. For example, after morning care for your employer, schedule a task that will allow you to sit down for a while (e.g., telephone calls, menu planning, or paperwork).

Plan to do one task at a time. You may be able to perform some tasks at the same time (e.g., making phone calls while doing laundry). However, in scheduling activities, allow yourself time to complete one task before starting another, to ensure you have time to do each task properly.

Schedule work to fit your energy level. When do you have the most energy? Are you a "morning" person? Do you feel energetic in the afternoon or evening? If possible, schedule your most time-consuming or stressful tasks when you have the most energy. Leave easy tasks for times when you are less energetic.

Tackle time-consuming or stressful activities in stages. For example, if you have a lot of paperwork to complete, plan to do a little each day for several days.

"Learn how to say no"

Care providers often have difficulty saying "no" when asked to do something. They place unrealistic demands on themselves. Why? Reasons include:

Do not understand rights and responsibilities of self and employer

Do not set and stay within limits

Put needs of others first

Feel guilty saying "no"

Expect too much of self

Concerned about others' opinion

Want to avoid conflict

You can avoid placing unrealistic demands on yourself by following these guidelines:

Do not allow others to manipulate you. Have you given in to requests and then felt resentment or anger about doing so? Manipulative approaches include:

Flattery: "You're the most wonderful caregiver my Dad has ever had."

Criticism: "Why can't you fix my hair like my daughter can?"

Playing the martyr: "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine all by myself."

Emotional blackmail: "I know I'm diabetic, but if you really cared about me you would let me have just a little piece of pie."

It can be difficult to untangle yourself from people who manipulate. Good communication skills (such as clarifying what you are hearing and saying) can help you be more assertive.

Clarify others' expectations of you. Ask questions when information or instructions are given to you. Know what is expected of you. Are you to be responsible for completing a task or making decisions? If not, who is? Be sure there is agreement among all concerned. Decisions may need to be agreed to in writing.

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Tasks and Time Lines

Write down the tasks and activities that need to be done in the home. Having the information in writing helps you see exactly what needs to be done and when. You can use this information to determine what times are busiest and what tasks and/or activities could and should be done by others. The following pages help you develop written time lines for the tasks which must be done in the home.

Laundry - washing, drying, folding and putting away clothes, bedding and other linens

Changing bed and other linens

Dishwashing - washing dishes by hand or machine after cooking, baking, and serving meals

Meal planning - planning menus and preparing shopping lists

Grocery and other shopping - purchasing food, paper products, and other items needed for operation of your employer?s home

Telephone calls - making calls to talk with doctors, case managers, family members and others; business-related calls; setting up appointments, setting up other business-related appointments

Appointments - visits by nurses, case managers, therapists and others to meet with you or to provide care; other business appointments

Paperwork - completing forms and business records, paying bills, and other business-related work

Free time - unscheduled time to allow for emergencies or unexpected events.

Other - list any other regular household or business tasks not included above.

Your Needs

This is time for yourself, your family, and other personal activities separate from caring for your employer, such as:

Personal time - time for relaxing, enjoying hobbies, reading, shopping, visiting on the phone, getting your hair done, meeting a friend for lunch, or enjoying other favorite activities.

Family time - time to spend with your spouse or partner, your children, and other family members.

Sleep/rest - daytime rest periods, and time at night for sleep.

Time off - uninterrupted time AWAY from your provider duties to refresh and renew yourself.

Other - list any other personal activities not included above.

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