Caregiver Burnout–Who Me?

The support meeting was hilarious!

How many times have you heard that said? Probably never. But that’s what MoCAA support meetings are like. Fun. Upbeat. Inspiring.

January’s meeting was no different. The topic was Caregiver Burnout and Self-Care. Some symptoms of Burnout are: High levels of stress or anxiety, impatience, alienation, overreacting to anger or criticism, feeling trapped, loss of compassion…and the list goes on. Knowing that many moms raising children with special needs have experienced burnout to some degree, you would think this would be a pretty morose topic. But not the way we do it! With brutal honesty, our moms feel comfortable sharing their experiences with burnout. More importantly, they learned the role Self-Care plays in their caregiving journey.

Self-care isn’t just about personal health and hygeine (i.e. proper nutrition, exercise, etc.) There are 8 domains of Self-Care: intellectual, interactional, emotional, nutritional, sensual, spiritual, physical, and contextual. All 8 need to be addressed to ensure a caregiver’s well-being. No one was more thankful than I was to realize it is not just about exercise and healthy eating!! It inclues, making sure you engage your brain, explore your emotions, socialize with responsive others.

If you find yourself thinking: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” then you are fortunately mistaken. You don’t need an all-day spa treatment to care for yourself. (Please note, MoCAA will wholeheartedly support your right to do this, but hey, we do try to be practical, lol.) The notion of needing an hour to yourself is the only way to improve your well-being is inaccurate, and for caregiving moms, it is completely unrealistic. I remember when my 4 kids were younger and life was pretty hectic–day-by-dayand minute-by-minute. I often said, “Why bother?” when it came to giving myself a break. (FYI, that was definitely a sign of burnout.) In retrospect, though, even a few minutes to myself could have given me just what I needed. Waking up ten minutes early to meditate, pray, or reflect on my emotions could have made a difference. How would that have helped? Well, I think a lot of my disinterest in self-care was due to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Who knows what a few minutes of centering could have done for me. Maybe a would have had an “A-ha!” moment and realized that I needed to schedule that dentist appointment was just as important as scheduling my children’s doctor and therapy appointments. Instead, I waited years and wound up with root canals instead of just a minor filling. It cost me physically (Ouch!) and financially to put this off. And a 3 hour dental appointment is harder to squeeze in a 45 minute cleaning.

This was just a personal example of what lack of self-care can do. I am happy to say that 18 years into parenting, I have finally learned how crucial it is in the prevention of burnout. Has caregiving for my children gotten easier. Actually, in many respects, it has gotten more complicated. The difference between now and then is my perception. With a clearer mind and healthier body, I can put their issues in perspective. Do I forget to do this? Oh, yes, definitely. But I keep coming back to what is the most important thing you can do to be the best caregiver–caring for myself.

But if you are not there yet, and not sure you ever will be, don’t worry about being judged. All the MoCAA Moms are on this journey. There is no scolding if you aren’t taking care of yourself. However, there is encouragment, support, and shared experiences which help you to get on the right path.

If you are a mom on the journey of caring for a special needs child, please join MoCAA. And if you love someone who is, please encourage them to join.

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