Caregivers and Burnout

Caregiver: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this word? This may vary depending on whether you are the caregiver of someone diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or the one diagnosed with MS.

Caregivers of people diagnosed with MS and patients diagnosed with MS have described a caregiver and caregiving as an honor, a sacrifice, love, support. The response may be completely different depending on where people are on their journey, who they are caregiving for, and the prognosis.

The difficulties of caregiving

In my professional experience as a clinical mental health counselor, I have heard the word burnout when it comes to caregiving. Burnout can cause unintentional resentment towards the one diagnosed, which is not fair to them. This can lead the one diagnosed with MS feeling like they are a burden.

It is so important to care for yourself as a caregiver so that you have the energy to help and be present for the one diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I feel that caregivers cannot continue to give when there is nothing left to give, without eventually burning out or feeling resentment.

My experience as a caregiver

In my personal experience of being a caregiver for my daughter when she was diagnosed with cancer, I would say that being a caregiver was first and foremost the love I had and have for my daughter, and being able to support her through her diagnosis. I do recall someone implying that I was being a martyr, because I wouldn’t leave the hospital until she could go home. This implication made me feel angry and misunderstood, because I wasn’t being a martyr; I was being a loving mother who wouldn’t leave without her child.

You may be a caregiver of someone diagnosed with MS who has had a similar experience where you genuinely were there for your loved one, doing the best you could to help them through a diagnosis. If this is true for you, know that you are doing the best you can while your loved one is also going through a very difficult time, too.

Care for yourself by giving yourself time and space to rejuvenate so that by caring for yourself, you can better care for the one diagnosed with MS. This is not selfish, it’s necessary, healthy, and can benefit everyone who is going through the diagnosis.

Preventing burnout

Before burnout sets in (and even if you are burned out as a caregiver), consider these tips below:

  1. Make time for yourself daily, even if it’s 10 minutes
  2. Accept help from others
  3. Set healthy boundaries and say no when you need to
  4. Get outside
  5. Talk to a trusted source/counselor about your feelings
  6. Avoid isolating
  7. Learn something new
  8. If you believe in a higher power, connect. And if you don’t, get out in nature
  9. Talk to other caregivers
  10. Join a caregiver’s support group

Helping yourself can help others

As a caregiver of someone diagnosed with MS, you may be thinking “I don’t have time to do any of the above suggestions. How can I possibly make time that I don’t have?”

What I know from professional and personal experience is that it is crucial for the caregiver to take care of herself/himself before burnout and/or resentment happens. Even if it means getting up 10 minutes earlier, going to bed 10 minutes later, or carving out time during the day, it can make a difference not only for you but also for the one diagnosed with MS.

Gift yourself and the one diagnosed with MS by caring for yourself.  This can help you and the one diagnosed with MS feel seen, heard, and supported.

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