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Most of us never plan to become caregivers for our loved ones. The choice is often made for us by our life circumstances. As a result, we don’t factor in how much time, effort, and emotional energy caregiving requires.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. And if you try to take care of yourself and your loved one, you will eventually burn out. When that happens, you can’t help anyone.

On this episode, I’m joined by home health care nurse Diedra Kindred to discuss why it’s ok to ask for help, how being a caregiver can reduce your lifespan, and warning signs that you are burning out.

Here Are The Show Highlights:

  • How you can be ok with recharging while others care for your loved one. (4:30)
  • The shockingly high percentage of caregivers that pass away BEFORE the person they’re caring for (5:27)
  • Overlooked care tasks that must be discussed or you may risk a non-medical crisis (8:55)
  • The single best way to handle outside offers of help even when you feel like you don’t need it (10:03)
  • The sad truth about why we refuse help and how that harms our loved ones (10:58)
  • Take this step TODAY to effectively care for your loved one during difficult times (13:44)
  • 2 blaring wake-up call signs you are burning out and will be unable to provide effective care (15:15)
  • The “20-20-20” plan for restorative self-care that combats burnout (18:40)

For daily 5-minute mind exercises, head over and like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hcafortworth/

You can also find additional support and resources by calling Home Care Assistance at 817-349-7599 or visit our websites https://www.homecareassistancefortworth.com/ and https://itsmyturntocare.com/.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “It’s My Turn To Care.” We know the challenges you face caring for someone with dementia. That's why each week we bring you tips, strategies, and most of all, support as you navigate your role as caregiver. Let's get started. [00:15.6]

Dave: like Hello. This is Dave Parks. I'm a certified senior advisor and owner of Home Care Assistance, and you're listening to It’s My Turn To Care: Secrets for the Dementia Caregiver. Today it’s our goal, as with every episode, to provide you tips, strategies, secrets to help you on your journey as you care for someone who's suffering from dementia—and, today, we have Deidra Kindred.

Deidra, I met her probably it seems like about three years ago. She loves educating individuals and families with the right information to make the right choices for themselves, and she has over 15 years of experience in cardiovascular intensive care. [01:14.6]

She is the former owner of Affordable Assisted Living & Services. She has been a home health nurse for over five years, and she has worked as a home care infusion nurse for over three years, and she has spent about three years as a certified legal nurse consultant. Now she owns a great company who we use a lot for our clients called Your Nurse Advocates, and today she's here to talk to us about dealing with caregiver burnout.
Deidra, thanks so much for taking some time out to talk to our listeners. [02:01.3]

Deidra: Thank you, Dave. It’s so awesome to be here.

Dave: You've had a lot of experience doing a lot of different things, probably mostly with seniors, so we look forward to hearing, and you've dealt with a lot of families over the years. We're going to talk about caregiver burnout, which is something that we all need to be aware of and watch out for, and it's not certainly taking care of our parents or our loved one, or even a friend or a neighbor. It’s not something we necessarily plan to do and a lot of times it's with situations where you may have your own immediate family that you're caring for, children, husband, or whatever the case may be, and it can be a very stressful. What do I do when I find myself in that situation? [03:05.0]

Deidra: First of all, it's okay to scream and yell because you have to have some type of outlet, but it's so amazing because when you're caught up in that situation, you're overwhelmed. You're stressed out. You don't know where to turn. You're just basically frozen.

I'm speaking from experience because, when my mom was 52-ish, she started developing some symptoms that appeared to be Parkinson's and then also appeared to be MS, and she also already had asthma where she had to go to the doctor and get allergy injections at least twice a month, especially during this time of year, and she had colon cancer. So, that's five physicians. And she also was developing some symptoms of dementia related to Parkinson's. [04:00.4]

Dave: {Mm-hmm.}

Deidra: So, coming together as a family to try to have a work-life balance was very, very difficult, very difficult. Me, for a fact, I started breaking out in hives and was one of those, as women, we’re control freaks and we don't want to delegate because nobody can do it like we do it.

Dave: Right.

Deidra: I say to you, ladies and gentlemen, let someone else do it for you. That's my number one thing that I wanted to talk about today. Don't deny help.

Dave: Sure.

Deidra: And it's okay to ask for help. Actually, it is a sign of strength, asking for help, than a sign of weakness. That was the mindset I had years ago because I'm super nurse. I can do it all. I know everything. No one could do it better than me, and it comes to a point that you will start getting sick. You will start having issues and you can't adequately take care of someone if you're not taking care of yourself first. [05:04.7]

Dave: Yeah. You may have seen these same studies, but I've seen some studies that show that, I'm not sure what the percentage, but there's some fairly high percentage. I'm going to say one in four caregivers actually pass away before the person they're caring for.

Deidra: Oh my goodness.

Dave: I'm not sure exactly, but it's a very high number. Then the average lifespan of a caregiver can be reduced four to eight years because of the stress and the toll it takes on caring for someone that we love.

Deidra: Yes, that’s so true. I've seen it. I think the number may be a little bit higher from what I've seen personally, because lots of times as caregivers, we negate ourselves because we're looking at who we’re caring for, what do they need, and our needs come on the bottom of the totem pole. We'll get that later. I'll get some sleep later or I'll go get my nails done later. [06:07.1]

And I'm saying that it's okay to take a break sometimes for you. First of all, get that adequate care and to the home. That's why I love your company because your caregivers are trained to help with dementia-related clients, and I love that, but dementia is a sticky bucket—I like those words, sticky bucket—dealing with that and no day is the same. Especially in the season that we're living in right now with COVID, it’s extremely stressful for most people. They don't know where to reach out to. They don't know who to reach out to.

You have a plethora of resources. I have a plethora of resources. It's okay to go and take an hour lunch after you get someone in the home to care for your loved one or just let the other family members—now, that's important, other family members—get involved in the care. [07:04.9]

I've seen it where there are several siblings and only one sibling is doing everything, and I try to look at the whole picture because sometimes it's that particular sibling that's denying help from other siblings. They’ve offered, but you’ve told them no because they don't do it like you do it, and I'm saying they don't have to do it like you do it. It's okay to get that help and make them feel involved.

Dave: And a lot of times it's more than just the physical care.

Deidra: Absolutely.

Dave: There are other things that are necessary in life, like paying the bills, understanding Medicare and what's paid for and what's not, doing someone's taxes. There’s all these. Mowing the grass, home repair. So, when someone says, I'm not going to be very good at that because I don't know how to do certain caregiver's skills, there are just so many other things you can do to help. [08:09.0]

I think a lot of times that's kind of whoever is providing the primary care, the hands-on care, takes those other responsibilities when someone else in the family could be doing those.

Deidra: Absolutely. I totally agree. I was very blessed because I have two sisters. One is a nurse. She's not as good as me, remember that—we always fight—and my other sister, she works in finance. But all that to say is that we have lots and lots and lots of family meetings. Who's going to handle the medical bills? Who's going to handle the medical care? Who's going to handle the day-to-day things that need to be done in the home, calling contractors or whatever it may be? So, it takes a village. That's the point I was trying to get at. It takes a village for everybody to have a part. [09:04.9]

Dave: Sure. One of the things that we may have or I may have talked about on a previous podcast, I can't remember, but a lot of times people will turn down help, but sometimes people who offer help don't really know what specifically you need, but they do want to help.

What I recommend to families is be ready for that offer. If someone says, Hey, I want to help, so let me know how I can help. A lot of times people will say, Sure, I'll let you know, and, of course, they move on to other things.

But if you can be ready for the next time someone says that with something that whatever the case may be, but I'll throw out an example, let's say, someone says, I really want to help you, so let me know, say, Okay, on August 15, my husband and I are going out of town. We really want someone to visit our mother at some senior living community and have dinner with her. Could you do that on this day, at this time? [10:15.4]

Most or I would think 95 percent of the time, people are going to say, Absolutely, I'd be glad to. So, just a tip I guess would be to kind of be ready for that offer that could come at any time.

Deidra: And I want to give a little tip on that one, too, because what happens is in our mind, we're like, Oh no, I can ask you for anything. That's okay. I’ve got it. And you're stressed out, right? But you don't want to see it appear like you are needy or anything like that. I think of it like don't deny anybody else's blessing you.

Dave: Oh, that's a great way to think about it. [10:59.7]

Deidre: That's a blessing, and if by you telling them no, you are denying them their blessing because they are wanting to do it out of the kindness of their heart. Even if it's just making a casserole and dropping it off or just coming and sitting with your loved one while you go and get your hair done, or whatever it may be, let them help.

And I had to really think about it that way because I was the one to day, No, I’ve got it. No, I’ve got it. No, I couldn't ask you to do that. And sometimes it's little things to us, but those little things add up and you can't focus on the big thing, so don't deny someone else's blessing.

Dave: I like that. A lot of times people feel guilty. They're taking care of their parents.

Deidra: I would say to someone that needs a break, reach out to some of these companies that provide respite care. Just kind of interview. Come up with some questions that you can interview some of these respite care companies, because there are a lot of companies out here that will come or you can leave your parent at some of the assisted living places. They're very nice. [12:06.9]

But there's nothing wrong with calling and doing like a virtual now since we're in COVID season, calling someone up and asking someone a certain set of questions and being able to ask them, What is the cost? What does the program entail? Is there a minimal time that the parent has to stay there? What kind of entertainment do you provide? Or anything like that. I think that is… It starts with asking for help. So, who do you know? Who?

Dave: Yeah, so we have a couple of clients where that's all we do for them. We are there when the family needs to go out of town, for example, and so it does pay off. Whether you use Home Care Assistance or another company, it does pay off to go ahead, get the information, get them in the system, get the paperwork signed, the more lead time, the better. [13:06.4]

But then all you have to do is say, Next weekend, I'm going out of town. Can you find a caregiver for me or can you come by during the day? Or I'm uncomfortable with them being alone at night, whatever the case may be.
In this environment, which is we're all having to think a little differently, act differently, do business differently, take care of our parents differently, what thoughts do you have on effectively caring for our parents during this time?

Deidra: Building your team, building your village of people who want to be involved or have the time to be involved, because it's such a different time we're living in, but my whole purpose is to build that team. [13:53.5]

So, if you have someone who loves handling the finances—I loved it when you brought that up earlier—someone who loves handling finances, let them do that. Someone who likes to clean and someone who likes to cook or someone who just wants to spend time with your loved one, so you can just get away for just a little bit.

And I'm saying stop telling people, Oh, Johnny doesn't do it right, so I'm going to do it anyway. That's just more stress on you and more stress on Johnny because now Johnny doesn't feel like he's involved. Seeking out those resources, calling a Home Care Assistance and asking for some resources, calling me and Your Nurse Advocates and asking, Do you know who ________? Fill in the blank. That to me is where it starts, getting that team of key players and moving forward that way.

Dave: What are some signs? And I know you've been through this yourself. What are some signs that you might be experiencing caregiver burnout? [14:57.4]

Deidra: Oh, boy, you're snapping at people. Mine had gotten kind of extreme. I was really isolating myself from other people that needed me because Mom had to have things first, but I was very blessed, I will say that, that kind of was able to nip it in the bud with my two sisters. But I'm saying it's family meetings, so everyone gets a clear understanding or you try to get a clear understanding of where you are, what's expected of you, what are you willing to do.

Those conversations can be very, very hard at times, and there's nothing wrong with calling in an outside resource that's non-partial that can have everybody come together and formulate a plan. You have to have a plan. It’s so important.

Dave: Yeah, a lot of people asked me, What's the number one thing you can do when you're caring for your loved one? because even if you have professional help, a lot of times, you're the kind of the manager, in a way, of all the resources. [16:02.8]

To me, the number one thing is to find someone that you can trust and they can help you be kind of the quarterback of the care situation. The beauty of our industry is there are a lot of great people that are very trustworthy and that I would have care for my parents, but part of it is just it takes a little bit of time to build a relationship with someone, but there’s very few people in our industry that wouldn't go the extra mile for someone that's having to maneuver through, maneuver through these things.

Are there any things that someone can do? Let's say, they're actually feeling stressed. Is there anything they can do for themselves to try to help calm, help bring a little bit more normalcy back? [16:59.7]

Deidra: That's a great question. Another thing, I want to go back before I answer that one to your question about the number one thing.

Dave: Sure.

Deidra: I think there are several things that can be done, too, not only reaching out for help, but getting a plan of care that is written, so everybody can be involved in that plan of care, so everybody knows their roles and everybody knows what's expected. There's, hopefully, no assumptions. Communication is key.

I know that if Mom needs to go to the doctor on Thursday, I know I can't do it, but I know someone else can do it, and then be able to document what could happen during that visit, or if there was a procedure, I have some type of designated person that keeps the lines of communication open between anybody and everybody involved.

Then, in reference to the question that you just said, yes, absolutely, especially during this season. One thing a lot of bad things have come out of COVID, but a lot of great things have come out of COVID, too. [18:03.2]

Having that time to keep those lines of communication open, finding something that you love to do if it’s just 20 minutes a day, making sure that you are true to yourself, getting away and praying or meditating, or reading or whatever it may be, it is okay to take 20 minutes a day for yourself.

I do 20, 20, 20, personally. I do the meditation, 20 minutes of exercise, probably a little bit more exercise now, and then 20 minutes of reading my Bible. That helps me to, okay, now I can formulate how I'm going to plan my day. It’s such a stress-reliever, finding something “you” and it's okay. I want people to really know that it's okay. Twenty minutes is really nothing. I mean, find that time every day to get back and get reenergized. [19:01.2]

Dave: I do want to touch on the communication issue you brought up about communicating with various providers and things of that nature, because I do kind of have this theory that probably 97 percent of all problems can be solved with better communication.

A lot of times we're counseling the children and the parents, and one time in the span of a day, we had a change to their care plan, which happens and we adjust and we do what's best for the client, of course, but the client called and had a change to the care plan. I think we were talking about hours, and then the daughter called and had a different change, and then the son called and had a different change. We, frankly, at the end of the day, didn't know what we were supposed to do. I understand texting and emailing, and I get it. I think it has its place, but sometimes you have to have a conversation. [20:00.7]

Deidra: Absolutely.

Dave: We call it a family meeting. We had everybody on the phone and we said, “What’s best for your parents is to operate this way going forward, so if we can have one, we don't really care who it is, but we just need one person to make changes, because then you can really…a lot of problems down the road. So, who's my point of communication?” And it doesn't mean you can't have a backup, right? But we need one point of communication. It makes things operate a lot more efficiently.”

Deidra: Oh my goodness, you are so right. When I worked in the hospital in the CVICU and the families were coming in, and you’ve got four or five kids and everybody's asking a question. Everybody takes information differently, right? Your perception is your reality, right?

So, I would always say, Designate one person to be the point of communication and then that one person will update everybody else, because if I'm on the phone with you and Julie and Desiree or whoever, somebody’s going to get, Oh, what? No, she said this. No, she said that. No, they meant this. [21:12.0]

Also, I have a charting system personally. It's called CareTree.me, and that system allows any and everybody who's involved in that care to keep the lines of communication open, so everybody can chime in and everybody can read it. To me, that's the best way, either written, someone who takes notes, or some type of app or some type of platform where that one designated person can keep everybody updated, so they won't be on the phone all day or texting all day because everybody has questions.

Dave: Yeah. No, I agree. I agree. Everybody means well. Everybody wants what's best for the loved one, but things can get… It just makes things work better for the loved one, for the family and for the provider, whatever kind of provider that is. [22:04.8]

Deidra, I appreciate your thoughts on caregiver burnout. One thing I want to say to our listeners is that Deidra's company, Your Nurse Advocates, is to me a great idea and a great opportunity for those that need some help in maneuvering through the medical side of care. She can go on doctor's visits for you. She can help you with your medication management, give you things to talk to your doctor about that would help the overall care of the loved one, and we have used her on several clients and we always get great reviews, and we just think that's a good service that you provide. So, thank you for that.

Deidra: No, thank you. I love what I do. I can't help it, it's in my blood. I love helping people out and I can't help it. [23:04.6]

Dave: All right. Deidra, if someone wants to learn more about caregiver burnout or Your Nurse Advocates, how would they get in touch with you?

Deidra: I can be reached at (817) 854-3240, and what I offer is everyone who calls me a free 30-minute phone consultation. If I can help you out, great, we set up a needs assessment. If I can't, I can point you in some other direction for some reputable, trustworthy resources. I also can be reached at www.YourNurseAdvocates.com.

Dave: Very good. Again, thanks for listening to It’s My Turn To Care: Secrets for the Dementia Caregiver. We always encourage you to visit our website HomeCareAssistanceFortWorth.com, or you can call the office at (817) 349-7599.

Thanks again, Deidra, for being here, and we will talk to you next week. Have a great week. [24:11.7]

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