Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate: Dr. Cynthia Speaks!

Topic: Caregivers, Do You Burn the Candle at Both Ends?

Who can relate? Who wants to relate? Burning a candle at both ends is an accident waiting to happen. The idiom implies, “To exhaust one’s energies or resources.” Without acknowledging overtiredness in the caregiving space, it can lead to errors, mistakes, injury, and death of a loved one. So, shining a light on this topic is critical, more so, because we are not only dealing with the usual format of caregiving, we have added the pandemic to the care of older adults. We all know caregiving is ‘hard work.’ Even for those who have been doing it for years, our mind and body require adequate rest with a schedule and system in place. It is not a want; it’s a must!

When our body begins to speak to us, we must listen. What does our body tell us when exhausted and have been burning the candle at both ends? The first sign is telling self, I don’t want to give care today; or, let me sleep in a few hours more. Then, headaches and body aches show up. Next, attitudes change, and finally, signs of depression appear. If these signs and wonders creep into the caregiving space, support is needed. If feelings and symptoms are ignored, a caregiver’s health is at risk. There is tons of research that have shown caregiver health is compromised because they ignore signs of physical strain, feelings of being overwhelmed, sleeping too much or too little, tired most of the time, easily provoked, and turning to unhealthy behaviors to cope.

There is Support For You Wherever You Are

One thing I often try to understand is the lack of reach when help is necessary. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Research studies share that most caregivers are ill-prepared for their role, so it makes perfect sense to seek support and resources. Indeed, it is a noble thing to do. Asking for help could prevent a loved one from being placed in a nursing home, away from the environment they have known for years.

Where should you look? Sometimes help is a phone call away or even a click away. Believe it or not, family members will step in. But, you must allow family members to use their gifts and talents the way they see fit. Some family members are computer savvy and can assist with gathering information on support services. Your role is to say thank you. There are state-by-state family caregiver programs that are willing and able to offer support. Resources available include social services, case management, legal, chronic disease management, medical equipment understanding, and more. As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, know that caregiver needs are individualized for each circumstance. Your health and the health of our loved one is fundamental. Nonetheless, there is support to offer you answers and respite. Please ask!

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is author and speaker. Her book: From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor shares caregiving tips.