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  • Kathryn Watson

Caregiver Fatigue- 3 Ways to Cope

If you are a family caregiver, I don’t have to tell you how exhausting it can be. Whether you are just caring for someone part-time are you are the 24/7 caregiver chances are caregiver fatigue is not a stranger to you.

As a family caregiver, you are dealing with a lot. You may have to learn how to bathe someone, change adult briefs, give an injection or deal with the challenging behaviors of dementia. You are on call 24/7 and are sometimes needed in the middle of the night. When the call comes you go, it doesn’t matter that you have a big presentation at work the next day and need your sleep.

Sleep? What’s that?- Caregiver Fatigue

Caregivers are often short-changed in the sleep department, as they struggle to care for their children and spouse while also caring for an aging parent. You probably feel as if you need 48 hours in the day but know that if you did you would probably fill those hours as well.

So Much to Do and Not Enough Time

This is a common cry I hear from caregivers. But the truth is, we all only get 24 hours each day. I have yet to meet someone who got 25 or 26 hours. But, we have all met that miraculous person who somehow manages to do 10 x what a normal person could do in a day. Why is that?

Let’s talk about your caregiver fatigue and the ways you can learn to cope.

Set Priorities to Avoid Caregiver Fatigue

The person who seems to be able to do everything and do it well is someone who is really good at setting priorities. Everything will not get done. Learn to be okay with that. Make a list with 2 columns.

Column #1 has things that absolutely must get done today. This could be things like picking up medication, driving Dad to the doctor, making sure mom has something to eat ( it does not have to be homemade by you-let go of that), feeding the dog, etc. These things are very important and must not be forgotten.

Column #2 is for things you would like to get done but the world will not come crashing to a halt if you do not accomplish these things. This could be things like mopping the kitchen floor, doing all of the laundry, cooking a good, healthy meal, etc. Get the picture. It is important that mom have medications, something to eat and the dog has been fed. It is okay to let the floor go without mopping and as long as everybody has something to wear the laundry can wait.

Make Yourself a Priority

This is hard for most caregivers. We are used to taking care of everybody else. When we neglect ourselves, however, the person we are caring for will pick up on that. The very person we are trying so hard to give the best care to may feel guilty if they realize that they are the cause of your fatigue.

In the movie, My Neighbor Phil, the wife with Alzheimer’s did not recognize her own husband. She told a friend, “No, that’s not my Harvey. Harvey was passionate and full of life. That man is tired and has circles under his eyes. He is a nice man but he is not my Harvey” To me, this was one of the most powerful moments in the show. Her husband was trying so hard to do everything he could to help her that he lost himself in the process and Mary lost her husband.

Reach Out For Help

Often the caregiver role will fall on the shoulders of one sibling. They become angry and frustrated and feel as if no one is there to help. Sometimes you have to find your own help. You have to ask. Not everyone knows how to help. Sometimes you may need to tell someone what to do.

My friend Laurie found her voice one day and instead of asking her siblings to help and being met with excuses, she began to tell them what she needed. I have a doctor’s appointment next Tuesday, I need you to be here at 1 PM to take care of mom. She also learned not to rush back or feel guilty if she took a little longer than expected.

If you are still not getting the help you need from your family, you will need to reach out to the community. See where your local resources are. Join a caregiver support group. You will be amazed at the resources you may discover.

A home care company can help for a few hours a week to as many hours as you need. Maybe your brother is not willing to come and help with mom but may be willing to hire a home care company to come for 3 or 4 hours each week. Caring for a family member is a lot for one person, reach out and get the help you need.

Starting Looking at Alternative Living Arrangements.

You don’t have to move Mom today. But you do need a plan in case you are just no longer able to be the full-time caregiver. Caring for someone does not mean you have to do all of the work yourself. Placing mom somewhere where she is getting excellent attention will allow you to be the daughter, the son, or the spouse again. Chances are this will make you both happy!

In honor of our founder Pat Mack, we are carrying on the tradition of caring for our residents in "The Light Heart Way" Light Heart Memory Care homes are specially designed for 8 residents. This gives us the ability to give personalized care to each and every resident. Contact us to learn more about Light Heart Memory Care, or book a free consultation.

Phone: 281.282.0770 Email:

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