Caregiver Burnout and Spiritual Growth
The purpose of the “Are you heading for caregiver burnout” inventory by Spencer (2010) is to give the caregiver an opportunity to check in with his or her needs, an act that caregivers seldom take the time to do. Caregivers are often so worried about and involved in addressing the needs of others they forget about their own basic needs for sleep and food. Unfortunately, the cumulative toll of sleep deprivation, inadequate and rushed meals, and the constant ‘flight or fight’ response induced by the experience of constantly attending to someone with medical needs often takes its toll, even if the caregiver is unaware of this fact.
Taking care of someone for many years is particularly draining physically and mentally. Caregivers may reproach themselves for not being mature in an emotional or spiritual fashion but all human beings have self-actualization needs. They have a need for fulfillment outside of the real of caring for someone else. Being reminded of this is essential for the caregiver to have a realistic portrait of his or her capacity to continue on ‘as is’ without assistance.
The inventory also includes questions about how others perceive the caregiver. Even if the caregiver is convinced he or she is fine and needs no assistance, if others are constantly asking the caregiver about offering additional help, this can be a red flag that the caregiver is troubled. For many caregivers, feeling burnt out and miserable all the time becomes the new normal. The caregiver may have forgotten how to feel relaxed and happy and interact with people other than the person they are caring for. Eventually, the cumulative fatigue begins to result in emotional and physical wear and tear that cannot be ignored.
Part II: Reflection
Caregivers often have a profound sense of guilt if they feel resentment towards the person for whom they are caring. It can be challenging to put one’s own needs second, day after day, and to see no hope of possible improvement, unlike caring for a child who grows and develops every day and will hopefully become independent. Caregivers often feel very guilty if they take time out ‘just for themselves’ to enjoy their former hobbies. They may have trouble admitting to themselves that ultimately they return to their obligations more rather than less well-rested and able to meet the challenges and stresses of having someone depend upon their efforts 24/7. Taking time for one’s self, including daily meditation and prayer, is essential.
Having a sense of spiritual strength and guidance is essential to dealing with the constant demands of caregiving. Often the most mundane aspects of caregiving can be the most wearing and infusing these acts with spiritual awareness can be profoundly uplifting. Prayer can be a time to take a deep breath and articulate and understand the subconscious feelings and internal monologue running through one’s mind every day.
It is also important to prepare one’s self for the right mindset in embarking upon prayer. Sleeping and eating enough rather than ‘functioning on fumes’ is an important component of preparing one’s self for a spiritual communion. Being a caregiver does not mean trying to be immortal. Although caring is a heroic act, the caregiver should always have a profound sense of his or her own human needs, not just the needs of the person he or she is caring for.
Spencer, P. (2010). Are you heading for caregiver burnout? Community Table.
Retrieved from: http://communitytable.parade.com/37194/paulaspencersenioreditorcaringcom/quiz-are-you-heading-for-caregiver-burnout/
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