How to Avert Caregiver Burnout

Written by Julia on October 25, 2015

There are many reasons why you may feel compelled to shoulder too much responsibility and become overly involved in your parents’ lives. Feeling needed and useful is a positive life-enhancing experience. However, doing more than is necessary creates problems. Too much assistance and too much attention are equally harmful for the caregiver and the care receiver.

Nice to do or have to do?

One of the keys to averting caregiver stress and burnout is to become more in tune with the time-management concept of “nice to do” versus “have to do,” especiallywhen there is evidence that our parents are reasonably capable of making their own decisions and able to safely perform day-to-day tasks for themselves.

There’s only so much time and energy to give to others. The key to managing your day is knowing the difference between doing what is required, when to defer to others, and letting go of unnecessary tasks. Formulating responsibilities into a list of what must be done (have to do) makes it easier to visualize what you realistically have on your plate. Anything else that you offer (nice to do) is icing on the cake. In today’s caregiver world, the ability to prioritize must be part of your bag of tricks.

Refer to the following self-assessment questions as often as needed as a way to maintain a healthy balance between family caregiving responsibilities and the real needs of care receivers:

 When it comes to my role as family caregiver, I…

  • evaluate their strengths and resources, not limitations and weaknesses.
  • keep them involved in their own decision-making process.
  • facilitate dialogues rather than try to solve their problems for them.
  • let them do what they can for themselves, as long as their safety is not at risk.
  • adhere to their decision-making time frame, rather than my own.
  • accept and deal with what is, rather than what I’d like things to be.
  • do not waste energy worrying about people and circumstances that I cannot control.
  • am aware that change can occur for better or for worse at any time.
  • ask for and accept help from others.
  • do not deplete my own financial resources
  • seek financial advice from professionals.
  • do not make ironclad promises to anyone about anything, and stay flexible.
  • accept that today somebody is likely to be mad at me for something.
  • continue to satisfy my own personal, professional, recreational, spiritual, and social needs.
  • accept that it is okay not to have all the answers.
  • talk about my real feelings to a trusted friend or professional about what is happening.

Reprinted with permission from Joy Loverde, author of The Complete Eldercare Planner (revised and updated, 2009, Random House). Everything you need is in this book. Time- and money-saving checklists, worksheets, websites, step-by-step action plans, low-cost resources, and questions to ask professionals—an essential resource for anyone struggling with the many challenges that face today’s caregivers.  

Joy Loverde is a popular keynote speaker for a variety of audiences. She has been featured on the Today Show, CBS Early Show, National Public Radio, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Consumer Reports. For more information