18 HEART INSIGHT • AUGUST 2011
don’t run past the water station at mile five, saying, “No thank
you, I’m not thirsty.”
“Unless they can step back and reflect—‘This is now really
cutting into my work life, cutting into my relationships with other
family members and it’s affecting my health’—people just kind of
get stuck and feel helpless changing it,” he says. “Getting that
long view, availing themselves of whatever help is out there, is a
way of empowering caregivers to get from start to finish and do
the very best job they can.”
WHEN TIMES GET ROUGH
Schempp suggests a variety of strategies for caregivers to use
to avoid burnout. For instance, learning about the illness they’re
helping a loved one manage. Seeking information from health-
care providers or associations that focus on that condition can
prepare them for what to expect over time and helps them make
better healthcare choices and reduce their stress. Here are
some other things caregivers can do to maintain physical and
n Take small breaks throughout the day: Read a magazine
article, set aside 20 minutes for a favorite hobby, or take a
n Stay connected to the outside world: Dine with friends;
join a caregiver support group or chat on a social network site
for caregivers, such as www.tyze.com, www.SharetheCare.org,
n Keep a sense of humor: Watch sitcoms on TV, rent funny
movies, or talk with that one friend who always makes you laugh.
n Exercise: Your day is filled with hours of purposeful activity,
but a walk around the block to admire your neighbor’s flowers
or doing a stretching routine with a yoga DVD can be relaxing.
n Go outside yourself: Whatever your faith, attend services and
talk with a clergy member to help put your role into perspective.
n Recognize your limits: Draw a bright red circle in your mind
around what you can do. Don’t feel embarrassed or guilty to ask
for help with anything that falls outside that circle.
n Pet a pet: Animals can be an excellent source of comfort and
support, so buy a pet if you can handle the additional responsi-
bility or play with the neighbor’s dog or cat.
n Don’t bottle up your emotions: Caregiving can provoke many
emotions, from anger to grief. Unburden yourself by sharing your
true feelings with friends, family, clergy or other caregivers. You
will get perceptive counsel and practical advice—especially from
other caregivers “in the trenches” like you.
WHEN FRIENDS JUST CAN’T BE FOUND
Great tools and information for helping caregivers take care of their
loved ones and themselves.
Blogs for caregivers of all ages,
product reviews, webinars, weekly
newsletter and online garage sales.
National Caregivers Library
Access to hundreds of useful
articles, forms and checklists that
address the key needs of caregivers and their loved ones.
Family Caregiving 101
Basic tools and information caregivers need to preserve their own
physical and mental health.
National Family Caregivers
Free membership offered to
caregivers, who can then receive a newsletter, resource referrals and other benefits.
The Stroke Network
Online stroke support, a
caregivers handbook and information resources.
Well Spouse Association
Services include a national network
of support groups, newsletters,
mentor program, respite week-
ends and round robin letter-writing
groups that enable caregivers
without computer access to write
and share letters of support.
Caregiving is not a one-person job. It requires a commu- nity effort, a fact that all caregivers need to accept, and
even embrace. For this reason, the National Family Caregiv-
ers Alliance (NFCA) has an online tool to enable a caregiver
to establish a volunteer care team of friends, family members
and neighbors, and to coordinate their activities on an online
calendar (visit www.nfca.lotsahelpinghands.com).
Volunteers can view and fill the calendar with various er-
rands, chores and projects — not all of them involving care-
giving. For instance, to free up some time for a caregiver to
take a relaxing long soak in the tub, a neighbor may weed her
garden, a family member may clean out the roof gutters, or a
friend may prepare and deliver dinner.
“Regardless of the situation, [volunteer care teams] can
be set up,” says Suzanne Mintz, president and chief executive
officer of NFCA. “This is the most significant thing people
can do to prevent and deal with burnout.”
If you need more help—or more specialized help—than
your immediate circle of friends, family and neighbors can
provide, these resources can help.