Speaking to the Interfaith Roundtable at its quarterly meeting held last Wednesday at St. Barnabas, Ms. Carol Burhenn presented multiple strategies to avoid burnout. The diverse group of clergy, all of whom are involved in senior ministries in their congregations, were reminded that it’s not sufficient just to take time off from caregiving.
Officials said, "With the graying of America, more and more of us are facing the challenge of caring for an aging parent, or know someone who is. Remember when your children were small? Caring for them took a lot of energy, and you will need a lot of energy for this new task as well. Learning to take care of yourself can prevent the burnout that can occur from the demands of caregiving."
“Caregivers often have boundary issues,” said Ms. Burhenn, RN, MPA. “Self-caring is not selfish; it recognizes the uniqueness and self-worth of each individual. It makes us better prepared to take care of others.”
“You have to determine priorities and make the effort to change behavior in order to improve self-caring,” said Ms. Burhenn, a parish nurse at Trinity Lutheran Church. “Otherwise, there’s no lasting benefit from your break.”
It was stated, "Wholeness consists of physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, and intellectual well-being. Because the various elements of wholeness are so inter-connected, experts recommend caregivers first focus on physical health. Good health, or lack thereof, will affect every other aspect of your overall well-being. So the first tactic is to improve your health by building a good relationship with your primary care physician, eating well, exercising appropriately, and getting sufficient sleep.
"It’s also important to develop ways to cope with stressful life events and increase emotional stamina. Learn to balance personal and professional commitments, saying “no” when appropriate. Ask for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Building good relationships with family and friends ensures they’ll be there when you send out an “SOS.” Be involved in the lives of your children and grandchildren and seek out new friendships. And if you’re short of time, try combining goals, such as exercising (physical) with a friend (social)."
A recent University of California, San Francisco study found that loneliness is a risk factor for functional decline and early death in adults older than 60. The study also found that the majority of self-described lonely people were married or living with others, suggesting that the quality of relationships matters more than simply being alone.
It’s also important to keep learning. Developing expertise in a particular area enhances self-esteem and self-confidence. Travel and read books unrelated to your vocation. Handle your financial resources responsibly and plan for the future. And don’t forget to give serious attention to a personal devotional time.
“Caregivers often know those they care for better than they know themselves,” said Ms. Burhenn. “It’s so important to recognize your needs and limitations.”
At a time when 70 percent of American workers don’t use all their vacation time, the risk factor for burnout in any vocation is high. But with the around-the-clock demands of caregiving, taking care of the caregiver is crucial. Many caregivers misunderstand self-care to mean “self-ish.” But no one can give continuously without replenishing themselves.
The Interfaith Roundtable is composed of clergy and lay leaders who are directly involved in senior ministry in their own faith communities. Representatives from area churches, hospice, hospitals, senior communities and long-term care share aspects of their organizations’ senior ministries with one another, generating a better understanding of the challenges faced by older adults and those who minister to them.
For more information, see www.caregiver.org and www.st-barnabas.com.