Battling Burnout

When it hits, burnout can be devastating. The guilt, the anger, the loneliness can strike a parent or caregiver hard. Sometimes, a quick fix brings you around. Other times, more help is needed. Taking the right steps at the right time will help you come around.

Accepting Where You Are

Most times, the burned-out parent has allowed diabetes (justifiably so) to take over her life. She may have given up something she loves; some parents of very young children even put a career on hold. Many have let their marriage fall into a state of disrepair. The combination of stress, worry, anger, and task-sharing issues can push a couple pretty far. The best first step toward moving out of that hole is to accept that you are in it.

Sounds easy, but it's not. Parents just don't want to fail, and like any humans, they don't want to look closely and realize that their own actions may have helped get them to this point. The parent who can say out loud “I've let this go too far,” or “I've set myself up for failure here,” is the parent who will come out of burnout ready to begin anew.

Don't Play the Blame Game

Adults can be great at assigning blame. The reason you have to take on all the diabetes care, you claim, is that your spouse just does not care. The reason you've never taken on any responsibility is that your spouse just does not trust you. The reason you're down in the dumps is that your mother-in-law won't have your daughter for sleepovers anymore.

Fact

Diabetes can sometimes hurt others around you, too. If you have a good friend or relative who has cut back on a relationship with your child because of fear, chances are she is hurting too. Offer to help her change that.

Learn now: Blame does no good. The situation is a complicated one, and even if you do have a point in some cases, pointing fingers does not move you forward. Rather, look at the situation and figure out how you can change it. Ask your mother-in-law what keeps her from hosting sleepovers anymore? You may be surprised by the answer. If it's her thinking that you don't trust her, you can help her change that with training and education.

With a spouse or partner, it can be trickier. The diagnosis of a chronic disease can throw a wrench into even the best relationship, and one person in the couple experiencing burnout can only hurt it more. People tend to lash out at those who are closest and to get bitter about things the other spouse may not even realize. A sit-down with your spouse to admit that you're in over your head and need support is a brave step. You may be surprised at what you hear. While some spouses who are not providing hands-on care may be practicing avoidance, others report that they feel pushed away by the dominant care-taking parent. If your spouse is the latter, you'll need to take a deep breath and realize you have work to do to let that spouse into the diabetes care equation. If your spouse is the avoidance type, you've got a whole different issue. Either way, make sure you go about this discussion away from the ears of your child (he feels enough stress and guilt without hearing his disease may have pitted parent against parent) and in a way that is not confrontational.

Question?

What if I cannot be calm about this?

Then it's time to bring a professional in. You would not be the first couple to seek expert help in working out this situation, and you won't be the last. Find a counselor and begin addressing the issue.

By putting blame aside and just addressing the situation and your desire to change it, you'll find that both sides can be heard, responded to, and, you hope, made happy again with tweaks and changes in the daily care routine and relationship.

Make It a Real Plan

It's not enough here to say, “Okay, I'll help out more.” You and your fellow caregiver need to sit down and hash out a real plan with real expectations. You need to contract your plan, just as you do with your child and her diabetes care. For instance, if you feel your spouse needs to be more on board, you might write out, “Both parents will attend next four endocrinology appointments.” Or “Spouses will alternate weekends of being in charge of shots, insulin, and carb counting.” Write down, too, what you won't do. “Neither caregiver will criticize the methods of the other” is a good start. You don't have to frame it or cross-stitch it, but putting it in writing, as always, makes you think it through and makes it real.

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