It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people interact with each other. In work-related situations, this can become overwhelming over time and lead to home care agency staff and caregiver burnout. 

Home care agency caregiver experiencing caregiver burnout, looks exhausted sitting in her car staring out the window
If your homecare agency staff members are experiencing caregiver burnout, they are not alone.

After two years of quarantines, social distancing, and fear of the unknown, the way we live, work, and play has changed. While these circumstances may not have adversely affected everyone, they do seem to have caused some people to become more introverted while others have become more curt and impatient.

So how can home care agencies help their employees overcome those feelings of stress and anxiety?

Be Empathetic

It’s so important now more than ever to come into every situation from a place of empathy. We don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life at the moment we interact with them. 

One great way of practicing empathy is to tell yourself a story. Maybe this person just got bad news about a medical condition. Maybe they were disappointed by something a friend or loved one did. Perhaps they just woke up on the wrong side of the bed and can’t seem to shake their bad mood, but normally, they have a wonderful, fun personality.

If we tell ourselves that there is a reason, logical or not, behind that person’s attitude, it can help make their pain and frustration relatable and give us the opportunity to show kindness and concern. After all, we’re in the homecare industry for a reason: to give care.

Kindness Forever

It might sound cliche, but sometimes it’s necessary to kill a bad attitude with lots and lots of kindness. 

No one likes to get yelled at, huffed at, or berated. But sometimes, especially with a client who’s feeling unwell, that can happen. Empathetic people are caring by nature. That’s why they’re caregivers. 

It can be difficult to disengage your feelings from someone else’s behavior, but it can be done. It’s hard not to take things personally and feel attacked. But showing kindness is a great way to help someone who’s in a bad mood turn their day around.

Remind yourself that your client’s bad behavior is not your fault, and more than anything, they need someone to show them kindness so they can get past whatever’s going on in their life at that moment. 

Start With Yourself

If you let someone else’s bad behavior or attitude affect you, it’s possible to start feeling like you’re bad at your job or you weren’t responding well enough to their needs. 

This can easily begin a burnout cycle that makes you feel like you can’t do any better than you already are. You might start to wonder how to cope with unpleasant people and if you should even be in the caregiving industry.

This leads us to the importance of self-care. You need to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself so you can in turn provide good care to others.

Managing your own stress and anxiety will help you deal with difficult situations or with people who might be struggling with their own worries or concerns. How can you do this?

  • Recognize the Symptoms
  • Breathing
  • Exercise

First, you need to recognize the symptoms of stress. This helpful information sheet details some of the symptoms you should be looking for to determine if you’re becoming stressed. A few examples include:

  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Interrupted sleep 
  • Pain in your back or neck
  • Increased headaches
  • Chest pains

The second thing to practice when trying to manage stress is to focus on your breathing. Just like strength training or endurance training, you need to teach your body how to breathe. According to the Centre for Clinical Interventions, breathing retraining can help people better cope with anxiety and anxious situations. 

Finally, exercise isn’t just good for the body, it’s also good for the mind. Research shows that physical exercise can really improve your mental health, including anxiety, regardless of the causes or triggers of that anxiety. 

Don’t like to exercise? No problem! There are a ton of great (and free) options available online including on YouTube. From in-home walking to yoga or pilates, there are tons of exercise programs available. The best part is that you can do them whenever it’s convenient for you.

Taking your pet on a walk around the neighborhood, riding your bike, or taking a hike along your favorite trail are all great ways to get some exercise and improve your mental health.

Find Actionable Items in the Midst of Their Rant

When people vent, they tend to just go on and on about whatever is upsetting them. It might feel like you’re getting beaten up, which can trigger caregiver burnout. But put on your listening ears and give your full attention to what they’re saying.

Somewhere in the midst of their rant, there will be a nugget of information you can grab onto and use to take an action.

For example, someone may complain that you’re not paying enough attention to their needs and you never come around when you’re needed. To address this, ask them what time they are available and let them know how you can adjust your schedules to make things work better.

If they are ranting about how dirty their house is, your actionable item could be to immediately take out the trash and say, “This is a great start to getting your home tidy!”

If you listen for and act on actionable items, you’re ignoring all the other unrelated stuff they’re trying to get you to react to, and they tend to stop, or at least lighten up on, their rant.

Be Aware

Home care agency owners have experienced a lot of pressure over the past two years, with staff facing higher demands from clients. The added stress and anxiety can take an emotional and physical toll that could lead to caregiver burnout.

Because of this, it’s essential for agencies to prioritize the needs of their caregivers. Recognizing when a caregiver is struggling with stress and anxiety is the most important factor. Offering support and a means to manage those feelings can be beneficial for their mental health and well-being. 

While we practice self-care on ourselves, we should also be cognizant of the care that our staff members need to help them overcome their feelings of stress or anxiety. Being aware is the first step. Showing kindness and empathy is the second. Providing resources, such as those mentioned above, can be helpful for staff who are overwhelmed with stress and possibly avoid caregiver burnout.