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Caring for the Caregiver: Avoiding Burnout

Posted on: Nov 30, 2017

A PPH Social Worker offers tips to identify and alleviate caregiver stress
during National Family Caregivers Month and throughout the year

More than 65.7 million caregivers – nearly 29 percent of the U.S. adult population – provide care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged.

The majority of this caregiver population are baby boomers, ages 46-64, who are managing the care, finances and livelihood of an aging family member while maintaining jobs, raising children, and handling day-to-day responsibilities of their own active lives. Over time, these busy adults can begin to disregard their own health and wellness, and this lopsided balancing act can lead to burnout and chronic ailments.

“Caregivers have a tendency to feel guilty when focusing on themselves or enjoying their own lives. Often, they focus their attention solely on the needs of their loved one, neglecting their own basic needs,” said Lisa Rubin-Wallack, Social Worker and Director of Social Services at The Philadelphia Protestant Home (PPH).

“In most cases, a caregiver’s family and friends are the first to recognize the emotional and physical changes. The caregiver is the last to recognize he or she may need additional support.”

In recognition of November as National Family Caregivers Month, Rubin-Wallack offers ways loved ones can identify and help alleviate caregiver stress. 

A caregiver may need support if he or she exhibits:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anxiety, or fear
  • Mood swings or short fuse
  • Changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Signs of withdrawing from social activities
  • Problems with relationships (marital, friends, children, other family members)
  • Inability to rest or relax

“Caregivers who ignore their own physical and emotional needs can contribute to unintentional elder neglect, as these individuals become over-worked and over-tired. This dangerous combination can lead to a caregiver inadvertently harming the loved one he or she is working so hard to care for,” adds Rubin-Wallack.

The longtime PPH Social Services Director has worked with Philadelphia families for decades and recommends the following advice for caregivers to stay physically and emotionally healthy:

  • Recognize the signs of stress and exhaustion, and ask for help.
  • Schedule personal time regularly.
  • Maintain good health habits. Make (and keep!) regular doctor and dentist appointments.
  • Make time for pampering when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Remain socially connected – maintain relationships and participate in activities.
  • Join a caregiver support group or network – establish new relationships and bond with those in similar circumstances.
  • Identify a confidant, someone to talk with who does not judge or criticize feelings or decisions. Consider speaking with a therapist.
  • Seek respite care for loved ones to find time to complete the actions above.

All-in-one senior living solutions such as PPH provide family caregivers with immense peace of mind. A comprehensive community where residents can pursue social, recreational, spiritual and intellectual activities all within their living environment, PPH enables caregivers and families to get back to enjoying their senior loved ones’ company without the incredible worry that full-time caretaking can bring.

To learn more about PPH or to schedule a tour, please visit www.PPHFamily.org or dial 215-697-8000.

The Philadelphia Protestant Home (PPH), founded in 1889 and incorporated in 1890, is a nonprofit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Northeast Philadelphia, licensed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and certified by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). 

PPH serves Northeast Philadelphia, Eastern Montgomery County, Lower Bucks County and the Greater Philadelphia area. Once again in 2017, for the sixth consecutive year, PPH’s nursing home, Pathways Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best nursing homes in the country and continues to receive a five-star rating from CMS.

What Residents Say

"In my two years at PPH, I’ve grown to like it very much. At first, I felt like a stranger and then as I began to talk to people, we increasingly became good friends. A way to meet people is to join clubs. I’m now part of the PPH Auxiliary. I love helping with their flea markets because you never know what you can find. Recently, I’ve joined an evening quilting class. I love that I can continue to enjoy my life outside of PPH while experiencing the offers here.….especially the pool! Everything is just so convenient.

– Lucille Hite, Independent Living resident

What Families Say

"My mom is sooo happy at PPH, I can’t even describe it in strong enough words. She’s met so many new friends and these ladies do EVERYTHING together! She sees Dad every day in Pathways, but can have her life too. She’s gone to so many activities and I think I’ve already been to Scoops with her at least 15 times. She loves the dining room and Bistro too. My sister, Ilene, and I are so delighted that Mom is happy.......Wow, it feels like Mom’s been there about 2 years—but it’s only 2 months!! That’s how comfortable and natural it feels for her – and for all of us.

– Rhonda Frenkel, daughter of residents Jack & Bernice Segal