As a caregiver, do you ever feel like you have “caught” PD? The other day I was carrying dishes and I was convinced my hand was shaking. It might have been because I had stacked up big plates, littles plates, bowls and silverware in an attempt to avoid two trips. However, when I stared at my hand for the next five minutes straight, it did not move one iota. But the seed was planted. Then there was the time I was trying to say something and could not think of the correct word for the life of me. And it was a really simple word-ottoman. I have been taking care of my Dad long enough to know that I will likely be on Sinemet in a week or two!
It reminded me of my, much, younger days in undergraduate school studying nursing. Every time we studied a new disease process, all of us nursing students suddenly were sure we had developed the symptoms. I was convinced I had malaria, kidney failure and cardiomyopathy all in one semester. And I was only 19!
What is this phenomenon in caregiving, when we are so focused on our loved one’s needs, losses and daily activities that they become our needs, losses and daily activities? The times when we basically lose ourselves in the bog that is PD? Most call this caregiver burnout. OK, what is caregiver burnout. Dr. Edward Creagan of Mayo Clinic, Rochester, defined it as “…an erosion of the soul caused by a deterioration of one’s values, dignity, spirit and will.” He describes this as when the caregiver’s “tank” goes dry, preventing the caregiver from performing the sacred task they have chosen to undertake. One of the symptoms of caregiver burnout is brain fog, the reduced ability to concentrate, which makes every task more difficult. Could this be why I can’t remember that obvious word? Or the reason I forgot why I walked into this room? Or why I was looking for a book in the freezer?
Why does caregiver burnout occur?
1. The failure of recognition that caregiver’s need to care for themselves too.
2. An overwhelming amount and volume of information on our loved one’s symptoms, prognosis, needs, etc.
3. No medical quarterback. In other words, the caregiver has to become the medical expert, advocate and provider all in one.
What does Dr. Creagan suggest? Caregiver’s MUST take care of themselves too.
1. Be an athlete or entertainer
a. Invest in yourself, your well-being, your eating, your sleep, your non-caregiving time. These are things that world-class athletes invest in to extend their ability to perform.
a. We all have to say no. If we say yes to everything, we end up unable to do anything. And boy is this hard to do. We can’t multi-task our own care with the time we spend caregiving. Caregivers need alone time. Eliminate distractions.
3. Care for ourselves
a. Plant-based Mediterranean type diet, meditation or introspection, exercise (30 minutes, 5-days a week), connection with friends, strength training, social interaction-crucial for mental health, spirituality, sleep-need 7 ½ hours of restorative sleep/night.
If you’d like to watch Dr. Creagan’s entertaining presentation yourself, I’ve posted the link below.
Be good to yourself caregivers!
(And you really aren’t “catching” PD.)