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With a little support, caregivers can survive Jenny Wallis | Sat, Dec 04 2010 12:00 PM

Dear Jenny, I have been taking care of my Aunt for the past three months. When I tell people about it, they always tell me to watch out for "caregiver burnout." What is caregiver burnout? Does it really exist? And what is the best thing to do to avoid it from happening?

When caring for an aging parent or loved one there is always much time, energy, and patience required. Almost always it results in feeling exhausted or frustrated. The reason for this is because most caregivers attempt to meet the needs of the person they are caring for at the expense of their own needs.

Stress levels are higher, illnesses are common and burnouts are more frequent in caregivers than in non-caregivers. However, there are ways to minimize the burnout that may be acquired while caring for a loved one.

Do not keep your emotions inside, try to develop a support group or system that releases some or your frustrations and feelings. This can be a tremendous benefit to you and your well-being. Because of the growth spurt of the aging population and the increased need for caregivers, there are now caregiver support groups in most communities.

It is always great to plan ahead. It may not be the easiest thing to start talking about, but begin to discuss topics with your family that are directly related with the care of a family member. Topics such as living wills, healthcare proxies, and end of life decisions need to be talked about. It is important to be proactive rather than reactive. Never wait to make decisions, especially decisions as big as a person's quality of life!

Remember that you do not have to take care of everything on your own; it is okay to ask for help. There are different caregiver services available to assist you, such as respite care. Respite care provides temporary relief to caregivers whether they need another caregiver to help out while they go out of town, or they just need some time off from care giving. Assisted living communities have caregivers on staff who provide care 24 hours a day. The care that is provided can assist with the instrumental activities of daily living such as cooking or grocery shopping.

The care giving for a family member is difficult and often impossible. The stress of taking care of a loved one can take a toll on anyone of us! Although, each eldercare situation is unique, most caregivers experience similar symptoms of caregiver burnout. And it is important to know that it can be minimized. Please learn about the options offered in your area.

If you have questions about senior care or helping an elderly loved one, contact Jenny Wallis, community marketing director at Villa Bonita Senior Living, at (619) 739-4400 or by email at villabonitamkg2@islllc.com. Villa Bonita Senior Living is an assisted living community licensed by the California Department of Social Services, located at 3434 Bonita Road, Chula Vista. You can also visit Villa Bonita online at www.villabonitaseniorliving.com.

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