Taking Care of the Caregiver: How To Prevent Caregiver Burnout

While the caregiver or care partner is generally focused on providing assistance and support to the person with Parkinson’s disease (PD), the caregiver also needs support. Being a care partner can be challenging and stressful, and as PD progresses, additional strain is put on the care partner. Research has shown a significant correlation between the decline in physical functioning of the person with PD and a decline in the care partner’s health and well-being. Recognizing this challenge, care partners must take time for themselves and set up support systems.1

Stay connected

PD can be an isolating disease. As the disease progresses and mobility becomes more challenging, the person with PD and their caregiver may find they spend more time at home and avoid going out. Caregivers should plan time for social connections and staying in touch with friends.2

Ask for help

Identify areas of caregiving that you need help with or things that can be delegated to other family members or friends. Be open to accepting help from others.2

Create a support network

Caregivers need a support network, which can include healthcare professionals, family, friends, clergy, a support group, and online support networks. Some people find comfort from faith communities.2

Be mindful of your own health

Getting proper sleep and regular exercise is always important, and it’s essential that caregivers continue taking care of their own health. Be aware of the signs of depression, such as lack of interest in once-pleasurable activities, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite or eating too much, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, and thoughts of death or suicide. If you experience these symptoms or think you may be depressed, seek help from a mental health professional.2

Manage your stress level

Some techniques that can be employed to manage stress include:

  • Relaxation Response – One of the most effective ways in reducing stress is to use activities or techniques to create the relaxation response in the body. Relaxation approaches include deep abdominal breathing, visualization, prayer, meditation, yoga or tai chi.
  • Physical Activity – Exercise, such as walking, benefits the body by deepening the breath and by relieving muscle tension. Physical activity that combines movement, deep breathing and mental focus, such as yoga, tai chi, and Qigong, can help induce calm.
  • Social Support – Receiving emotional support from friends, family and companions can help during times of stress and crisis.3

Build in breaks

Take time and schedule for regular breaks in caregiving for “me time.” Ask your support network to step in for a few hours or research respite care programs. Don’t feel guilty about this time – it’s critical for your well-being and ability to continue to provide care to your loved one.2

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: March 2017
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