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Avoiding caregiver burnout: What I’ve learned as a caregiver with a chronic illness.

Avoid caregiver burnout with a few easy tips. Look for help from people close to you, take care of yourself and create a routine.

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A little more than a week ago, I got a call from my husband who told me an ambulance was on the way to come get him. We’d later learn that he fractured his tibia, and would be put in an external fixator – which limited most of his ability to walk. I knew that I would become a caregiver for him in that moment, but I had no idea that I would experience caregiver burnout so quickly. 

Broken Tibia

The First Days

The first day was hard. I got to him around 7:30 p.m., but not before going to the wrong hospital first.

We spent several hours in the ER, and saw some really awful things. We didn’t get put into a hospital room until 3:30 a.m.

Even by then, the hospital room was in the observation area, and there was barely enough space for me to sit without being in someone’s way, let alone sleep.

I was tired, I knew I’d have work the next morning, and not much sleep. I got lost in the hospital, and started crying. A nurse saw me and helped me get to the garage.

I finally slept at 6:00 a.m., but then I got woken up by texts, and a call from Bryan letting me know that they were definitely going to take him into surgery. 

The surgery day.

I mustered up every single piece of energy I did not have, and booked it over to the hospital. They had just taken him from his room, over to the waiting area before surgery – all the way across the hospital. 

I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, and met a nurse in the children’s station, who took me to another nurse in the pre-surgery area, and he was under a ton of blankets. 

We talked about how old the TVs were in the hospital, I gave him a kiss & they wheeled him off. 

I grabbed a muffin and a cup of tea. I remembered that I forgot to take insulin. I ate the muffin anyway.

I came home, and I took our dogs out. I remember feeling sad that Bryan wasn’t there.

Day after day went by, and he finally got to come home, but that’s when the work became the hardest.

Not only was it crucial for me to care for his every need, but I’m also choosing to work 40 hours per week.

I have to take care of everything around the house ( and I have to take care of all of my own needs with diabetes.

Caregiving is marathon I’ve found out. I always thought that maybe I would learn to be a caregiver with my own parents in the future, but I never thought it would be this soon. 

I’ve learned some things in the past couple of days, and as always, I’m sharing it with you in the hopes that you can avoid caregiver burnout. 

What is caregiver burnout?

First of all, what is caregiver burnout? Burnout occurs when you are so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted that you can no longer give your full attention and care to the person your caring for.

You may be fatigued, stressed, depressed, emotional and upset. You may even stop caring for yourself, because you can’t anymore. 

Recognizing these emotions and acknowledging that they exist for you is a good step to fixing them. 

How to avoid caregiver burnout.

Taking care of someone the way you would take care of yourself is probably going to be one of the hardest tasks of your life.

Especially when it’s someone you love, you will pour everything into them. Some of the things you can do to avoid caregiver burnout are simple. 

Ask for help. 

If you have a support system, ask them for help. Friends and family will be willing to come to your aid, but you have to ask. It’s going to be hard to set aside your pride, and guilt but it’s going to make you feel so much better. 

When Bryan first came home, I thought about all of the things I had coming up – two trips out of state, a photoshoot, commitments I made for sponsored content on my blog.

I mentioned it and I had several people offer to help with what I needed. Bryan’s mom and mine came to the rescue when I needed to leave the house, and I feel some peace of mind that I don’t have to cancel a trip I really wanted to go on. 

It took a lot for me to realize that I can’t do it alone, and I don’t have to. But once I finally did, It was a breath of fresh air to know that I had several people I could ask for help. 

Get some sleep. 

The first few days are going to be difficult, and you probably won’t be able to sleep, you’ll be upset, you’ll have some grief, you’ll be exhausted, but do you best to lay that head down, and close your eyes. You’ll fall asleep eventually. 

I’ll admit that this was hard for me. In the beginning of our routine, I would wake up at 3a.m. to give Bryan some medication and check on his comfort level.

My body just pops up at 3 a.m. now – no alarms necessary. After I check him out, I’m always sure to go right back to bed until I really have to get up for the day. 

Ask for a thank you. 

Most of the days are going to be thankless. You’re doing things that (in my case) you vowed to do, and that any human being should do to help the person you care about.

But it’s okay to remind them to say thank you. You’re both living a life interrupted, and you are making some sacrifices to help. Don’t feel bad for saying “hey, can you say thank you?” 

Get out. 

Your caregiving may be long-term, or short term. Take some time to take a break and recharge. Do something that you like – Maybe you like getting your nails done, or going for a run. Get out and do whatever recharges you, that’s going to help you avoid caregiver burnout. 

Put your oxygen mask on first.

As a caregiver, you’re going to be tempted, to cater to the every need of the person you’re caring for. You know how when you fly, the flight attendant will always tell you to put your oxygen mask on first?

They tell you that because if you don’t take care of you, you will never be useful to the person you’re trying to care for. So get up and shower first, make yourself food food, brush your teeth first, if you have a chronic illness like me, take your meds first.

Make sure that you’re in a good place so you’re prepared and able to take care of someone else. Don’t let your health suffer.

Don’t feel guilty about living. 

The person you’re caring for is hurt, that’s a given. There isn’t much you can do about that. Try not to feel guilty about the life you still have to live. Caring for them is now an additional part of your life and you have to find balance. 

Create a routine.

Last, and most importantly, you need to create a routine. That is what’s going to get you through every day and make things feel somewhat normal.

Just like you have a routine for your regular days, do the same for your caregiving. Get apps that will help remind you about medications and your overall routine. Create a normalcy as much as you can. 

As someone with a chronic illness, I’m constantly thinking about the ways I have to take care of myself. It’s already hard to balance, but I never thought that I would have to care for someone I love so much.

I also never realized how hard of a job it would be to care for myself and provide good care to someone else at the same time. 

Think about some of these tips to avoid caregiver burnout. Look for help, take care of yourself and create a routine. These things will help you stay grounded, and not feel like you’re drowning. 

What other advice would you give?

About Mila

Hi! I'm Mila.

I’m earning my Master’s degree in Applied nutrition.

I’m a journalist and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach living with  LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, a slow-progressing form of autoimmune Type 1 diabetes) I love food, travel, and my kitchen, and teaching you about diabetes self-management.

I’m here to help you live your best life possible diabetes by showing you how to create simple, blood-sugar friendly and delicious meals and tips on diabetes self-care.

Be sure to download my FREE Diabetes Community App Glucose Guide, or reach out for FREE 1:1 diabetes health and habit coaching.

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