When the well’s dry we know the worth of water. – Benjamin Franklin

I was driving to work recently, sitting in the traffic just smiling. Although I love my work, I was very happy to be getting away for a week with family.

I was tired and I needed to take care of myself. I knew when I returned I would be more energized.

Most caregivers have forgotten how to take care of themselves. Caring for someone with dementia is a 24/7 commitment.

I would speculate that most of our caregivers live in “burned-out” mode and don’t even realize it.

How can someone learn that self-care should be a priority? How can someone learn techniques to help protect them both mentally and physically from burnout?

First, let’s look at some symptoms of burnout.

Socially withdrawing

No longer interested in activities that you used to enjoy

Weight gain or loss

Sleep patterns change

Feeling blue, irritable or hopeless

Here are a few suggestions to help with caregiver burnout:

  • Find someone you trust. Talk to a friend or neighbor about your frustration. Better yet, attend a support group where others can relate to how you are feeling.

It can be difficult to share these feelings with a friend because most people have their own problems. Support groups offer a safe and caring environment.

  • Set reasonable goals. Accept that you might need help from others. Investigate what is available to you such as home care, day care or a neighbor. Never say “no” when someone asks if they can do something for you. And be specific about what you need.
  • Set aside time for yourself, even if it is only an hour or two. Now, before you say, “Oh sure, like that is going to happen,” know what resources are available maybe through your church, day care, or maybe even a neighbor who could take your loved one for a walk or drive. Try and schedule something at least two days a week for yourself. It can happen.
  • Talk to a therapist, social worker or clergy member. They are trained to give advice on a wide range of physical and emotional issues.

The staff at Memory Matters can help you navigate. We know about the resources in this area. We know what financial assistance is available, and we offer support groups specifically for men, for women, and a general support group.

There is help. So before you burn out, reach out. It truly does take a village to get through this journey.

Take care of you first.

Call for help at 843-842-6688 or visit www.memory-matters.org.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org