The constant care, medical appointments, and daily challenges can take a toll on a parent’s emotional and physical well-being. That’s why it’s important to learn about managing caregiver fatigue when your child has special needs.
Taking care of a child who has special needs can feel like working full-time. Actually, it’s like working two full-time jobs. It’s nonstop, including coordinating schedules, answering questions about school accommodations and therapies, communicating with insurance companies, doctors, and other professionals, and, of course, meeting their most fundamental needs.
The lack of privacy that results from the constant stream of visitors to our homes needs to be taken into account here. Of course, that’s assuming you have access to in-home medical or nursing assistance. Concerns about financial stability are another source of stress for families with children with special needs. Money can be a significant source of stress when you need tools, machinery, or medical assistance.
When parents of children with special needs don’t have access to the resources they need, it’s easy to see how quickly they can slide into caregiver burnout.
Why Does Caregiver Burnout Happen
Think about this. It’s 2 p.m. A nurse texts you that she is unable to come in for your daughter’s third consecutive night. Your daughter is sick, and she understands that staying home from work is for the best.
Our family always reacts quickly when something like this occurs. I tell my husband the news, and we make plans for the evening. Dinner will be on the table, my other kid will be tucked into bed, my daughter will be fed, and all of her medications will be drawn by me. After that, we’ll give our son a bath and put her to bed in her own room. To accommodate my husband, we use our daughter’s trundle bed. By the time we get done getting her dressed, administering her treatments, and giving her medications, it is 10:30 p.m.
Already, we’ve had enough of this. We anticipate that tonight will be a busy one, and that Mathew will have trouble sleeping for fear of missing an alarm. My daughter’s trach needs to be changed in the middle of the night. We need to attend to her breathing problems or she may have to go to the hospital. We get it going, make some adjustments, and go back to bed. We get up bright and early the following day, despite our exhaustion, to begin a fresh day.
Of course, this is only one example of a past situation we faced. Both my husband and I experience caregiver burnout whenever we spend the day or night with nurses. Despite the fact that caregiver burnout is very real, we are always willing to put our children’s needs first and do whatever it takes to ensure their well-being.
Caregiver Burnout Can Be Avoided Using These Five Strategies.
1. Don’t be afraid to hit up your friends for assistance.
This is a tough one for parents of children with special needs, but it’s crucial. Consult with nurses about extending their shifts if necessary, solicit assistance from friends and family, and investigate local respite care options. Collective effort is required. This could take the form of someone bringing you ready-to-eat frozen meals or watching your kids for an hour so you can relax and enjoy a hot shower. In any situation, seek assistance.
2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
When you neglect your own needs, you weaken your ability to help others. My husband and I practice good health habits by regularly taking our supplements. It’s a minor adjustment, but it can make a big difference. The fact that we have survived for so long without major health problems despite enduring a harsh environment and operating on so little rest is a tribute to the importance of the little things in life. We also try to keep our caffeine intake low and our diet high in leafy greens. We try to keep our minds and bodies healthy by going to the doctor regularly, eating as many whole foods as possible, and getting plenty of exercise (even if it’s just walking around the block). These options make a world of difference for parents of children with special needs.
3. Locate a group of people who can help you out.
Finding a community of other parents who understand what it’s like to care for a child with special needs can be incredibly helpful for parents who are feeling overwhelmed. My daughter and I have recently begun attending our church’s special needs program. The program’s volunteers make it easy for her to relax and have a good time, and they seem genuinely interested in getting to know her. I also find great benefits from studying the Bible and make it a priority to devote time each week during the academic year to doing so.
Making time in your schedule for your child with special needs is essential, but so is making time for yourself so that you can reach out for help.
4. Plan an exciting outing.
We need to pay attention to this. Making plans to do something enjoyable for yourself is essential, despite how difficult it may be to get away, or to get away and not stress the entire time. This could mean taking a trip to the bookstore, Target, or the garden center just to browse and relax. Organize a trip with a friend if that’s what it takes. Put it in your calendar and do it in whatever form it takes for you. I know it’s easier to say than to do. Try to have fun even if you’re stuck inside due to illness or injury. Do a movie night with popcorn and snacks, break out the board games, or host a viewing party of your favorite show (your guests won’t judge the state of your home, I promise).
5. Set a priority order for your work.
If you are a parent of a child with special needs and you are feeling overwhelmed, try making a few short to-do lists. Sort your to-dos by priority so you can focus on the most pressing issues right away and put off the less pressing ones until you have more time or energy. You’ll be relieved to have taken this step and thank yourself later.
There is hope if you’re experiencing caregiver burnout. If you pick even one of these, you’ll start to feel better almost immediately. I understand that it may seem like things will never get easier, that you’ll never have enough energy to do anything, or that you’ll never feel like your old self again. All the same, keep in mind that these emotions won’t last forever. You’ll start to feel better as you make more efforts to restore your health. You will be unstoppable as a parent of a child with special needs once you have restored your own mental and physical health.
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