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Coping with Caregiving and Recognizing Burnout
By Evalisa McClure


When a person becomes impaired by age, illness or injury, a friend, family member or other relative may take responsibility for their care. This primary caregiver helps a patient remain at home, rather than in a hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility.

For over four decades, VITASÆ Healthcare has delivered expert hospice care to patients with six months or fewer to liveóeven those who are considered challenging or risky. Caregivers have been crucial in shaping and administering VITAS patients care plans, informing the hospice team of status changes, and handling patients personal and minor medical care. The significance of that role, however, means that an overworked caregiver can negatively impact the patientís health as well as their own.

Caregiver burnout
Caring for a loved one can be emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting. Eventually, it can lead to caregiver burnout, a debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved stress.

Symptoms include:

  • overwhelming fatigue
  • sleep problems
  • changes in eating habits
  • depression

Because a caregiver might continue to work outside the home, the impact of burnout can extend beyond the caregiver and their patient.

About 18 percent of American adults (43.5 million people) were caregivers in 2015, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. A 2017 study published in Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare found that caregivers miss more work than non-caregivers (8% vs. 4%), experience greater impairment of job productivity (24% vs. 14%), and higher rates of depression (53% vs. 32%) and insomnia (46% vs. 37%).

Recognition, respite care and self-care are solutions
VITAS hospice teams are trained to keep an eye out for overworked caregivers. We encourage all caregivers to:

  • ask for help when necessary
  • tend to your own needs
  • find time to take breaks or pamper yourself

This keeps caregiver, patient and family happier and healthier. Additionally, VITAS offers up to five days of inpatient respite care, so a caregiver can take a vacation, attend an important event or simply get some rest.

Caregiving isnít easy, but youíre not in it alone. If the person in your care is nearing the end of life, hospice can offer comfort and dignity for them along with support and guidance for you.

Evalisa McClure is general manager of VITASÆ Healthcare in Pittsburgh. For more information about end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at 866-759-6695 or visit VITAS.com.



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