Mind Your Body TV Episode 39 with Forrest Hong, Ph.D.
It was lunchtime at a health journalism conference, and I asked another writer how she was doing. She took a deep breath and “it” all came spilling out. “Jane,” in her early 50s, was taking care of her mother at home and it was a 24/7 job, one that was clearly taking a toll. The visibly exhausted, stressed and sad caregiver knew her writing career was suffering as much as she was. She desperately needed to prevent caregiver burnout.
Jane had no life of her own, as the burdens of caregiving inflicted both mental and physical distress.
(Caption: Turnabout for caregiver burnout with Forrest Hong, Ph.D.)
She told me she couldn’t really even leave the house, hadn’t been out to lunch or dinner in “I don’t know when,” and was only able to go shopping for necessities by hiring a teenaged neighbor to watch her mother. Jane was overweight—of course she couldn’t escape for a workout. She was desperately seeking relief, seeking answers, but neither seemed within her grasp.
I felt helpless as I listened—it all felt so familiar. I’d just been through my own caregiving experience and it was, well, brutal. Initially, I lived in another country and relied on paid professionals to implement my mother’s care. Later, my mother came to my town in California to live in a memory care facility, and she soon passed away. It was trial by fire, learning each step of the way and taking plenty of missteps.
Learn to prevent caregiver burnout
I shared the oxygen mask analogy with Jane: She had to put her own mask on first before trying to help someone else—her mom. I told her she wasn’t alone, that more than 65 million Americans care for sick, disabled and elderly family members and friends. Baby boomers comprise a substantial portion of this group. We talked about some excellent resources—online links—like this one from Medicare’s caregiver help section and about finding a support group.
I hope you’ll find this helpful, too. This week’s Mind Your Body TV video features Forrest Hong, Ph.D., a spokesperson for the National Association of Social Workers. He’s an expert on caregiving, and vice president of Your Care Manager, a private caregiving consultancy. Dr. Hong shares his knowledge of how to prevent caregiver burnout, or at least keep it at bay.
Remember that because you care for someone else, your own care matters so much. Events will occur that are simply out of your control, so be good to yourself when they do.
Watch Dr. Hong’s other video on Mind Your Body TV to learn how to choose a caregiver.