Being a professional caregiver is an unbelievably rewarding and fulfilling job. A big part of that satisfaction, however, comes from realizing what a big difference you are making in your patients’ lives and can involve feelings of deep connection to your patients. While empathy and compassion are invaluable traits in a caregiver, they can also make work-life balance particularly challenging. Leaving the home of someone you’ve come to know well and who relies on you for often intimate support, is certainly not the same as walking out of an office door leaving behind a computer and a pile of papers. Here are a few tips to help strike that balance that will allow you to excel in your professional and personal life, avoid caregiver stress and burnout, and maintain the sensitivity that makes you so good at what you do.
Finding Balance While at Work
While at work, try to focus on the things you can control and to accept those that you cannot. For example, becoming close to a dementia patient can be particularly difficult as their cognitive ability declines. Remember that you are their caregiver and that your role is to support them physically and emotionally in whatever state they are in – not to control that state. A declining condition is not your fault; your responsibility is to focus on what you can do for the patient at every given phase in their journey and as long as you are providing the best, most suitable support at any given time, you should feel at peace both professionally and personally.
Equally important for maintaining work-life balance is to “call it a day at the end of the day.” You don’t need to check in on your patient outside of work hours – give your all while on the job, and make sure to step away when your work for the day is done. Know that your patient’s other caregivers, be they family or other professionals, are very capable of taking care of the patient in question. Boundaries allow you and your patient to maintain a professional and therefore maximally beneficial relationship. Again, caring about the people you work with is a great thing; at the same time, defining professional relationships as such and being able to step away physically, mentally and emotionally at the end of the day, really allow you to do your best every day.
Finding Balance Before and After Work
When not at work, make sure to take care of your own needs. Stay healthy by getting regular exercise, eating and sleeping well, investing in personal relationships and making time just for you. The healthier, more balanced, and grounded you are, the more fluid work-life balance will become. It will be easier for you to maintain perspective and define and excel at each area, every day.
Remember that you can always talk to other caregivers about what works for them. Being a professional caregiver is a unique role and you are not filling it alone. Reach out to your team members and bounce ideas off each other to optimize your work-life balance, and really thrive at and enjoy all aspects of your life!