I love metaphors and analogies. Just ask my wife, I use them all the time, and it drives her crazy. But to me, metaphors are a great way to make brief, colorful and descriptive points, such as “I’m happier than a pig in mud!” Now that’s happy. They can also help someone visualize life’s challenges and difficulties such as feeling like a “fish out of water” or one I hear more and more often, feeling like a “frog in a frying pan.” This metaphor often epitomizes caregivers.
One such example is a woman who has been caring for her mother for the last 7+ years. Her mother was diagnosed with dementia and moved in with her and her husband. In addition to being a fulltime caregiver to her mother, she also home schools her three young children, not to mention all the other responsibilities she has as a wife and mother. She is your classic “sandwich generation” caregiver and self-admitted “frog in a frying pan.”
She described feeling like the frog in a frying pan, based on the proverb– place a frog in the frying pan then gradually turn up the heat and it won’t jump out. Instead it stays put, continually adapting and adjusting to the heat until they get burned or worse! That’s how she and many other caregivers often feel. They take on the role of caregiver and don’t recognize that the gradual pressure and stress is “frying” them mentally, emotionally and even physically. They need to learn how to avoid getting burned, jump out of the pan and ask another “frog” for help or seek other solutions.
How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout
One of the first steps of avoiding caregiver burnout is to simply realize you are in fact a caregiver. Often spouses or adult children get into the habit of helping or doing little things for their loved one and, bam, several months or years later it has become their daily routine. It consumes them and can monopolize their time away from other important things in life. Caregiver burnout is a real epidemic. Otherwise all the books, articles, and websites dedicated to helping caregivers wouldn’t exist.
Realizing it is a problem and looking for solutions is great a starting point. How can you seek help or a solution if you don’t even realize the problem? But once you realize it, you’ll soon discover there are many resources out there dedicated to helping caregivers. Listed below is a sampling of a few great websites and some other local resources that include articles, financial assistance, checklists, support groups, and many other tools to combat caregiver burnout. (Click on the links below.)
Cumberland County Aging and Community Services
Cumberland County Family Caregiver Support Program
Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging
Dauphin County Family Caregiver Support Program
Hospice of Central PA Support Group Calendar
Please also consider attending one of our Caregiver’s Workshops at Messiah Village, which we hold numerous times each year. The workshop was designed for those seeking options, resources, and support as caregivers. In it, we will examine ways to identify and reduce caregiver burnout and explore available resources and support.
Originally posted August, 2013- Revised August 2014
by: Matthew Gallardo, Messiah Lifeways Coach, BASW, CCP