Dealing with Burnout When You Can't Get Away
Last updated: March 2023
As a caregiver, it's all too easy to neglect ourselves. Our life changes radically when our spouse or other relative receives a cancer diagnosis, especially if we provide the only home care the patient receives.
All too often, burnout is the final result because we can't, or don't know how to, get away from caregiving for a while. It's not easy. It takes planning and money.
Most of us, however, can't afford even a day spa, much less to go somewhere for a few days. Many of us don't have anyone to ask to step in and take care of our loved ones while we're away, either.
Caregiving for MBC
During metastatic breast cancer, I felt a steady decline in my energy and motivation. Sometimes, I just needed to get away from it all, so when the weather permitted, I went outside onto the front porch. At that time, we lived in a cute craftsman cottage with an ivy and morning glory-covered front porch.
We called it bookends cottage. Sitting out there watching the world go by for a while was a relief. I wasn't away, though, because I left the front door open so Lynette could call me if she needed me.
Thank goodness for friends
One of my wife's lifelong friends, Laura, also had a front porch. When one of my sons could keep an ear open in case Lynette needed help, I went to her house for an hour. I must add that Lynette was the one who demanded I get away from her from time to time (she probably needed to get away from me as well!).
Laura agreed and told me I could talk to her about anything. I could cry, complain, rant, or express whatever I needed to get off my chest.
More porch time
Another of our friends, Allen, often texted, "Do you need some front porch time?" If I replied that I did, he'd come over and share an hour or two with me. We talked about music, the world, books, and whatever came up. He also took over Lynette's care, allowing me a little time away from my responsibilities.
Both Laura and Allen were at our house the day Lynette died, giving their support to the family, and to me especially. I know it wasn't any easier for them to lose her than it was for me. I'll always treasure their love and compassion.
Bloom where you're planted
I'd still like to get away for a week or two, but I'm now a widow living on a fixed income. It's just not possible. The burnout I feel overwhelms me sometimes. Losing two lifelong friends shortly after losing my wife hasn't helped. I read online about grief burnout, compassion burnout, and caregiver burnout, but what can I do?
Although I no longer have a front porch, I have a lovely covered patio that needs power washed and set up for the season. I anticipate happy, peaceful evenings with Laura and Allen this Summer. I anticipate blooming where I'm planted.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.