My name is Lise Leblanc and I’m a psychotherapist and author of the book Conscious Caregiving Guide. As a therapist, I thought I knew all about self-care, but when my grandfather passed away suddenly and my grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease came to live with us, I didn’t take very good care of myself. I was 30 years old at the time, married, raising my 1-year-old and 5-year-old, working full-time in a toxic work environment, while finishing my master’s degree – I was burning the candles at both ends, so to speak – and I had a burnout. I have combined my professional insight and personal experience to help people navigate the role of a caregiver. Conscious Caregiving Guide caters to all types of caregivers and people who might become caregivers at some point in their future.

You can buy my book Conscious Caregiving Guide on Amazon or Indigo.

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Comments: 53 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

almondparfitt10 karma

what's the best thing other people can do to support caregivers?

liseleblanc41 karma

Great question... Although we are sincere when we say, “Let me know if you need anything”, we have to also realize that the caregiver can be so overwhelmed that they don’t even know what they need. So if you’ve offered to help and they haven’t yet taken you up on your offer, take the initiative to check in by phone, by text or in person. Say things like: • I’m on my way to the grocery store. Do you need anything? • Can I bring you a coffee? • Any chance you’d want to get out for a walk?

In other words offer concrete support.

idonteven9315 karma

This is also good advice when helping a depressive person. Don’t tell them „Let me know when you want to hang out.“ Ask them „Do you wanna go for a coffee tomorrow?“ or „Do you wanna go walk in the park on Saturday?“

Amanda-Gagne11 karma

I agree with this. As someone on that side of things, if you ask me if there is anything you can do to help I will automatically say no. It is a very difficult thing, when struggling, to ask our friends for support. We may not feel like we are worthy enough. But if you offer something specific and concrete, like “Let’s go for lunch tomorrow afternoon” I will be much more likely to engage with you. Just the other day one of my friends offered to pick my children up from school for me. I would never have asked, but I was very grateful for her kind gesture of support during a difficult day.

liseleblanc8 karma

Yes and a key takeaway to what you just said is: ACCEPT the help that is offered. As a caregiver who has experienced burnout, I wanted to be the family hero, I was afraid of looking weak or incapable, I didn't want to put anything on anyone else, so I'd say "thanks for the offer, but I'm good". So yes, sometimes we just have to YES to the help that is offered and be grateful for the people who love us enough to care. Your comment also reminds me of how good it feels to help someone and so why do we rob others of this satisfaction by saying no to their genuine offers to help.

TheLastUBender2 karma

What did you end up doing to recover from burnout? Is it mostly about giving your body and mind a break?

liseleblanc7 karma

Giving my mind and body a break was one piece, and I did end up taking time off work and making significant changes to my caregiving situation. My grandmother who had Alzheimer's' started to wander and several safety issues were cropping up, and so the decision was made for her to go to a nursing home. But even once I accepted that I could no longer care for her and she was being fully cared for by others, my life didn't go back to normal. My negative thoughts and emotions were still there. I was exhausted and incapable of dealing with my day-to-day life, even after taking care of and resolving the stresses involved in my caregiving situation. I realized I needed more than to resolve the issues in front of me, and also need to deal with those behind me (from the past). I started seeing a counsellor and dealing with childhood wounds, I came to understand why I kept setting myself up with the same recurrent challenges, and I got committed to my mental and emotional wellness. There was a lot of soul searching, and a real discipline attached to getting out of the mental patterns that were creating my problems in the first place. The process took two years, but I came out of it stronger and healthier than I'd ever been in my life. I finally "got" why I was overcaring for others at my own expense and was able to start taking care of myself at a whole new level. Excellent question, thank you!

liseleblanc5 karma

Yes exactly! If it's your friend or loved one, you can take educated guesses at what makes them feel better and just show up and try those things out.

lou_b_anna7 karma

I'm in my late twenties and not on good terms with my parents who live in another country. I'm not providing care in person but I check in over the phone daily. It can be stressful when I get caught up with personal life and forget to call. They express disappointment and I'm left feeling guilty. Is it possible to continue providing good care while being honest with a loved one about how they affect me? Any advice on how to navigate it?

liseleblanc11 karma

Guilt is a big one! And the thing with guilt is that our family members and the people closest to us know exactly how to push our emotional buttons (consciously or subconsciously). I KNOW it is possible to have an honest conversation with them about how this is affecting you, and there are many key strategies in the Conscious Caregiving Guide to help you do this. Here is one key strategy... make it about you! Instead of saying things like "you make me feel guilty when you do... fill-in the blank), try using the O.P.E.N communication strategy. This communication strategy is aimed at giving you a new way to communicate so you can provide the best possible care and avoid the miscommunications that often result in guilt, frustration, or other emotions. In the OPEN communication strategy, the O stands for Observation, the P stands for Perception, the E stands for Emotion, and the N stands for Need.

So tell them what you're objectively observing, what your perception of it is, the emotion it's stirring in your and what you need in order to have a better connection with them.

Hope this helps!

funnybunny24276 karma

My mother is in her early 80s and is currently on the waiting list for a spot in a retirement facility where she can be supervised by nursing staff. In the meantime, she is very dependant on me to help her with some of her bigger weekly tasks such as grocery shopping, cleaning, library runs, etc. I'm in early 50s and I am in a senior management role at work where I already feel overwhelmed with tasks on top of having a wife and two kids (21, 23) who are becoming more self-sufficient but still do rely on me a bit. Is there a kind way to explain to my mom that, while I love her and do want to take care of her, she can't be my #1 priority? I don't want to upset her as we've always been close (I lost my dad when I was 25).

liseleblanc6 karma

Oh I feel your pain and was in a very similar situation myself. I didn't ask for help and wasn't honest with the people I love about where I was at until it was too late. It took me almost two years to recover from my burnout. So, please don't do what I did. Don't wait until you're at that point... make yourself your #1 priority at all cost right now. I realize this sounds selfish because we're all trained to believe that it's selfish to put our own needs before someone else’s. Before someone who needs us and depends on us. But I do believe that we sometimes are getting off on being "needed" and so we set ourselves up to do more for people than we actually need to (or that they need us to). Maybe we do it because we don’t want to say no. We don’t want to look bad or like we don't care. We don't want to ask for help and look incompetent. Maybe we don't want to not be needed. So we give of ourselves, sometimes more than we have to give. As much as I still believe it is important to give to others, I will never again give to the detriment of my own well-being. The thing is, once you're burnt out, you can't help ANYONE. So do whatever is necessary, and have the conversations you need to have (Chapter 4 of the Conscious Caregiving Guide is full of communication strategies) and make sure your needs are being met first and foremost so that you can be healthy and well to care for your loved ones without depleting yourself.

Thank you for this questions!

RAPutman6 karma

What is the best advice you have for someone who feels like they are having a burnout?

liseleblanc9 karma

Take care of yourself NOW. There is a caveat to this though because I don’t think most people really know what taking care of themselves really means. As a therapist, I thought I knew all about “self-care,”, and when I was heading for a burnout, my initial response was to eat more spinach, do yoga, go to the gym more often, make an appointment for a massage, hair, nails because my understanding of self-care was simply to take more time to pamper myself. But it turned out these were just more things to do, more appointments, and more obligations. The typical methods of self-care were not working for me and were actually making things worse. Don't get me wrong, I think these strategies can be great and they can be helpful, but they often don't get to the core of why you're burning out in the first place. It's kinda like getting stabbed in the leg and putting a bandage over it without taking the knife out first. Or like being in a boat that is leaking and trying to bail it out with plugging the leak first. You'll still bleed out or sink!

Amanda-Gagne3 karma

But what if someone who is already doing a lot of self-care still feels like they are having, or headed towards a burnout? What advice do you give them? We can tell them to take better care of themselves, but do you have any concrete examples?

liseleblanc8 karma

True self- care is about digging deeper to find the underlying reasons we are taking too much on, not asking for help, and not putting ourselves and our own needs as a priority. When we understand that we are often the ones setting ourselves up to be overwhelmed, overworked, overstressed, and UN-inspired, it is then that we can get serious about making positive changes in our lives. But this requires awareness, as well as discipline and commitment to doing things differently. We’re so used to our stressful mental patterns that we think what we’re thinking is all real. But I've learned that most of our problems are not “out there” in the world somewhere, they are right “here” between our two ears. So a KEY piece of advice that is often grossly underestimated is the value of doctoring our own thinking. When we start taking care of our minds, we correct our lives. So, in terms of concrete strategies, the Conscious Caregiving Guide is full of them, but I want to give you the most powerful one right now: 1. Get a good coach or counsellor that going to help you figure out the underlying reasons WHY you're heading towards a burnout. If you can't get a counsellor, find a brutally honest friend who you trust completely and who is outside of your caregiving situation and ask them if they would partner up with you to work on some self-care goals. The reason people can't do this one their own is because most of us are blind to our own dysfunctional patterns. For example, I used to think I had nothing to do with my problems. So when things got stressful, or I felt unhappy and dissatisfied with my life, I’d change jobs, change relationships, maybe even change cities, but before I knew it, I'd start having the same recurrent problems. Then I finally had a realization that I was the common denominator and if I didn’t change something, I would continue to re-create and re-live the same situations over and over again. Like the saying goes: If nothing changes, nothing changes. Your life become like the movie Groundhog Day. I don’t know about you, but for me, this was not working. I knew I had to start taking charge of my own mind and figuring out why I was setting myself up for stress and unhappiness. And I needed help doing that.

Great question, thank you!

pesto_pasta_polava4 karma

What do you think/have any advice about re-defining a relationship with someone you care for? I've been caring for my mother who has ALS for the past 12 months, and she recently moved into a nursing home. Im trying, with little success to redefine our relationship - i want to be a son again, and not a carer! I've placed her first in every aspect of our lives for the last 12 months, changed my job, worked part time, left/lost my partner, took a huge income cut...

Im trying to tell her that she can treat me like a carer for the little time we have left on this earth together, or she can treat me like a son - but shes really struggling to make the change, and im really struggling with sticking to my guns at a time like this and 'enforcing' it. I just want a period of every visit (5 times a week) where we talk about me/my life/stuff that isnt 'please do this, do that, this nurse said this, this care assistant did this thing to me, im so uncomfortable, im so upset' etc. I would happily do/deal with all these things for her, and I have/still do, but its so fucking hard when i get nothing back.

liseleblanc5 karma

I'm not sure how your relationship with your mother was before she got ill, but it certainly sounds like it has changed drastically from what it used to be. Chapter 3 of the Conscious Caregiving Guide is all about these types of relationship challenges (changes in dynamics and role reversals) that can happen as we navigate a loved one's illness. In your case, the changes have obviously put great strain not only on the relationship with your mother but on ALL aspects of your life. There are conversations you may want to try to have with your mother (suggestions in chapter 4), but my sense from what you've said so far is that this may be a time when you need to start grieving what you want the relationship to be and start accepting what it actually is. By hanging on to how the relationship was in the past, or to how you want it to be in the future, you won't be able to accept "what is", and you will continue to lose your ability to connect with who your mother is in the "now". Unless we grieve what we had (and what we wanted) and accept our new reality, we will continue to be frustrated as we try to change a person who is not likely to change at this age and stage of their illness. So my advice is to you is to adjust your expectations to match your new (and unfortunate) reality. I wish you all the best as you work through this very challenging issue.

esjay863 karma

I'm a stay at home dad and parenting and babies are a brand new thing to me. I also have depression and was just diagnosed as being somewhere along the autism spectrum. Every day feels worse than the one before it and I struggle to see a life of my own once my kids is old enough to start school. How do I survive?

liseleblanc3 karma

Sounds like you're really struggling with your new caregiving role. Please know that you are not alone. So many new parents struggle with these very same issues as new parents. Do you have access to a counsellor to help you deal with your depression as well as the challenges you're facing as a new parent and a recent diagnosis of ASD? If not, is there anyone else you can talk to? Anyone you could ask for help from before it's too late? I can’t stress enough the importance of creating a caregiving community so that the burden doesn’t rest solely on your shoulders, especially considering your current circumstances. So my key piece of advice for you is: don't try to do this alone. It's not going to work. Find the people who love you and want to support you, and talk to them about what you're going through. Again, ask for help. You need it. Just "surviving" is not enough, you deserve much more than that.

Chtorrr3 karma

What is something you think everyone should know but is commonly not well understood by the public?

liseleblanc8 karma

Even though you may not think you’re going to be a caregiver, based on the statistics (one in four people are providing informal, unpaid care to a family member or friend and that the number of seniors requiring care is set to double in the next 15 years), most us will be a caregiver at some point. This can happen at any age and stage of life so it is important that we plan and prepare for it.

I designed the Conscious Caregiving Guide as a step by step, easy to absorb plan for working through the illness of a loved one and tackling the caregiving role while staying happy and healthy along the way. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give a loved one is to show them you are still able to enjoy your life to the fullest while caring for them.

bestminipc3 karma

what's the accurate + comprehensive summary of book?

liseleblanc4 karma

Lise Leblanc carefully constructs a step by step, easy to absorb plan for working through the illness of a loved one in Wish I Knew: Conscious Caregiving Guide. Through concrete examples, self assessment quizzes, real-life stories, practical exercises, insights and strategies, the Conscious Caregiving Guide will provide the help you need to tackle the caregiving role and achieve optimum wellness for yourself and your loved one. The Conscious Caregiving Guide discusses the REAL challenges that caregivers are facing, including the emotional challenges - guilt, fear, resentment, as well as the communication problems, unwanted changes to relationships, the exhaustion, and lack of self-care – sometimes to a point of burnout – that many caregivers, including myself, face at some point along the way. It provides tools to prepare and plan - mentally, emotionally, and logistically - for your caregiving role and responsibilities.

FLAMM1E2 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA.

As a case worker, I have recently had a series of traumatic events to witness and support. I can feel myself becoming more isolated and distant in my personal life, and biased in other cases due to this. What are some methods that have helped you to compartmentalize your emotions in situations such as these to allow yourself the time to recharge? How have best allowed yourself to remain empathetic without becoming desensitized?

liseleblanc3 karma

This is a very big question, and if you haven't already done so, get a counsellor who can help you process the trauma at a deep level (if possible). I recommend someone who does hypnotherapy combined with CBT. I don't recommend compartmentalization and the reason is that no matter how good you are at it, this strategy won't work long term. Trying to hold things separate will take up all of your mental and emotional energy and it will totally deplete you. It will be bubbling under the surface all the time, and next thing you know it will boil over. It will disrupt your sleep, your relationships, and in time, every single aspect of your life.

I hope you have an employee assistance program or benefits to get a competent counsellor to help you process these traumatic events so that you can be at peace within yourself as a whole person, versus being compartmentalized.

Amanda-Gagne2 karma

I am a caregiver by profession. I often get caught up in my students’/clients’ stories and carry them with me. How do I detach at the end of the day so I don’t carry that weight home with me?

liseleblanc6 karma

Thank you for your question.

I recommend building in a transition time from your work life to your personal life, and start training yourself to completely switch gears by changing your physiology. For example, when you leave work, go straight to doing an intense physical activity, if possible (i.e.: like going to the gym or going for a run). If that’s not an option, do a puzzle, word game, or solve a difficult math problem that requires all of your concentration. And if that’s not an option, take a cold shower for 30 seconds. This will help you change your body's physiology as well as your mindset.

Many people have trained themselves to stay in a stressful state, but we can re-program ourselves to relax and enjoy what’s in front of us instead of going around and around in the hamster wheel in our head, telling ourselves how stressed and busy we are. Our self-talk and our words are very VERY powerful. So, I often tell my clients to wear an elastic band around their wrists and to snap it gently anytime they catch themselves in a stressful mental loop. This is simply to raise their own awareness of how they create stress within themselves. So, if once you’ve completed your transition time, you’re still thinking of work, snap the elastic band and ask yourself if you want to bring your students/clients in the car, shower, bed with you. If not, change your thoughts. If the thought comes back, write it down and then put it in a box and remind yourself that you’ll deal with work stuff tomorrow. Train your brain and stop allowing yourself to get on whatever thought train is going by :)

leggygypsy1 karma

I’m late to this, but I just wanted to say thanks. As a profession, we helpers have a long way to go in the self care department. We talk a whole lot about it, we ask about it in interviews even, but we do not practice it. How can we make small changes in the right direction to help one another with self care?

liseleblanc1 karma

Great question!

As a psychotherapist and conflict resolution specialist, I've done mediations and team restorations in several workplaces. And what I have learned is that often times people have a faulty idea of what it means to support or help someone. They may see "venting" and letting people unload their crap on them (or vice versa), or sympathizing on how bad things are as a good way to support someone. But the truth is, this just adds weight to an already sinking ship. So, we really need to ask ourselves if we are surrounding ourselves with people who elevate/energize us, and people who pull our A-game out. And also whether we are doing that for others. I think a lot of times, we just keep finding people who will keep us in our spin.

With that said, in terms of small changes, we all need to get honest with ourselves about whether we are committed to doing what works for us, or if we are just engaging in the same repetitive conversations with the same people, doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts, and expecting different results. Self-care becomes quite easy once we clear out the emotional baggage from the past, clean up the messes we have in front of us, and get committed to how we're showing up to the people, places, and things in our lives. As "helpers" we can get busy trying to save/help everyone else when really we just need to stop and save ourselves first. I know for me, and for many other caregivers, I was subconsciously choosing to take care of others as a way to distract myself from my own issues. But if you’re in the job of helping, you need to make sure you’re doing your own internal work. If you've already done your own work, that's great! If not, get a coach, counsellor or an "accountability partner" - anyone you trust who is completely outside of your situation who is courageous enough to hold you accountable to doing what works for you in all areas of your life so you can break out of any remaining mental, emotional and behavioural patterns that are not working for you.

TheBarrelofMonkeys1 karma

What's one of the biggest things someon can fit into their daily routine to improve their self-care? I work in healthcare and my job feels like caregiving most of the time and I'd like to add something to my routine to separate those lifestyles.

liseleblanc2 karma

There are two things I would suggest here.... the first is to build in that transition time between work and home life, making it clear to your body and mind that there is a separation. Before you leave your work place, visualize yourself unpacking any crap you took on that day and leaving it at the door. Take 3 deep breaths before getting into your car (or other mode of transportation) - see question above for creating a clear transition time. The other important and often overlooked piece of self-care is having a morning and evening routine that is conducive to being in a state of happiness and wellbeing. Even if this means getting up 20 minutes earlier, it is important to take the time to start and end the day right. Here are some things you can do to enhance your morning self-care: 1. breathe deeply, 2. express gratitude, 3. look in the mirror and say, "I love you, you're awesome, we're going to have the best day ever!" or whatever positive message feels right to you. Then end the day on a similar note. Lastly, if you can get a coach or "accountability partner" who can motivate you to stay committed and disciplined about your self-care.

Great question, thank you!

bookreader19911 karma

In the past, my mother had breast cancer (full recovery!) and I was struggling to find ways to support her while making myself "busy" so I didn't have to watch her stuffer post-chemo. It almost made me feel helpless when I saw someone I loved suffering but there was so very little I could do outside of "keep the house clean" and "do well in school." This is when I was a teenager and now I'm approaching my 30s. What advice do you have for those who are in a similar situation for not only self-care but perhaps additional (smaller?) things they can do to show their support for a sick loved one.

liseleblanc6 karma

I'm very happy to hear that your mother had a full recovery!

You're bringing up some really good points here about how hard it is for us to watch someone we love suffer. Often times, caregivers are fixers and master problem solvers, and when they can't fix the situation, they feel helpless and find it hard to stand by not knowing what to do. We're likely scared and find it difficult to handle our own emotions, never mind the other person's. That would be even worse as a teenager when still so young, but as we get older, we can learn to "hold space" for our loved ones who are struggling with their health. Instead of going straight to cleaning the house, or running errands, or adjusting a pillow, or telling them to think positive, for example, try just sitting with the person and listening to what they are going through without jumping in to offer quick fix solutions. Ultimately, a solution may be needed, but so is the emotional support which can be as simple as passing a tissue and crying with them. As Lina Miranda said in the Caregiving Insights book, "Being open and transparent provides your loved one with a safe place that will allow him or her to feel comfortable to share with you. Even if it’s just admitting to your care recipient that you don’t know whether you should act normal, or that you don’t know what to talk about now that the typical day-to-day stuff seems so superficial and irrelevant. Perhaps your care recipient will say that they want to pretend nothing is wrong, or maybe they will use the opening to talk about what’s really going on inside of them.”

TheSeattleSeven1 karma

My grandmother has Alzheimers and is 95 and my father has done a lot to care for her and still talks with her regularly. However we live in the south and my grandmother lives in Virginia. My dad can't visit her too often due to expenses but he still helps manage finances and all that stuff. He is very much involved with caring for my grandmother as I know he very much loves her.

I can sense my dad knows my grandmother doesn't have much time left and that she will pass in the coming years. I want to be there for my dad whenever the inevitable happens and my grandmother passes away. What are some ways I can be there for my dad when that does happen?

liseleblanc3 karma

Good question! Assuming you've already asked him how you can help.. I would suggest starting with some questions like: - what do you find the hardest part about caring for your mother from a distance? - Are there things you wish you could do more of? - If there was one thing you didn't have to do, what would that one thing be?

Find out what his challenges are and listen carefully to what is being said, as well as some underlying messages that might not be said out loud. For example, does his facial expressions change when he talks about certain things, does his body language shift, are there things he doesn't want to talk about. If you can get clues to what is going on for him, you can be in a better position to assist him and be there for him emotionally.

SweetnSaltyAlmond1 karma

I’m a psychology graduate and masters student, also someone living with a severe skin condition that brings me much discomfort throughout the day. At 27 years old, fit, and otherwise healthy and outgoing, it’s started to eat away at my mental health because I’m stuck inside, often missing work, seeking continuous medical care, and in too much discomfort (my body is largely inflamed) to have a social life anymore. This condition started only about 4 years ago, prior to that I was social and otherwise healthy with normal skin. Now, I simply can’t socialize because I literally am so uncomfortable almost every single day, and my mind is overwhelmed/occupied on dealing with my skin. How can I start to cope effectively (being so limited) now that I feel my mental health is being affected?

I used to be able to move freely, a college runner, with friends, now I’m stuck inside and it’s slowly eating at the drive, will, and resolve that I know I have within. It’s just been so long since I’ve been able to live as I feel I should. If you have SUPER coping tips, please share!!

EDIT:P:s I’m familiar with burnout! I was a Supervisor for a teenage girl (12-22) residential program for 3 years:) almost became to burnt out myself! So it’s not that I don’t know how to cope, it’s just starting to not be enough!

liseleblanc1 karma

Your situation sounds very challenging. I wish I had some SUPER coping tips that would help your situation quickly, but as a therapist, I would first want to know what was happening in your life at the time this skin condition started? What was going on mentally and emotionally? Did something traumatic happen? Anything significant at all? If stress or other psychological factors were at play, I would work on resolving them because when we resolve the psychological factors that precipitated, triggered, or contributed to the physical problem, we can often eliminate it, or at least reduce it significantly.

Even if there were NO psychological factors at play, the fact is you are now stuck in a cycle of stress and suffering because of the limitations your skin condition has placed on your life. There are mental, emotional, and behavioural patterns that your are creating in order to cope, some of which are negative and will not serve you well in the long-run (i.e. withdrawing from friends, preferred activities, feeling shameful/embarrassed about the way you look, etc.). So it is very important to manage your mind and to stay focused on what is still working well in your life. We can easily do the opposite because the pain and discomfort constantly demands our attention, and then slowly our whole life (internal and external) revolves around what we don't want versus what we do want. If you are interested in learning to manage every square inch of your mind, I do have a 7-week online course where you can learn a series of strategies to deal with stress.

PS: You've likely already changed your diet, but I wanted to mention the amazing mental, emotional, and physical results I've seen by eliminating sugar (alcohol, processed foods, etc). It's very difficult, but if you can, try it for 21 days and track the changes on a day to day basis. I believe the theory of the gut as our second brain and that most ailments can be improved through nutrition. Also, have you tried adding a strong probiotic and oil of oregano daily. If not, perhaps you can research this and discuss with your health care team.

I wish you perfect health in the future as you continue to heal from the inside out.

isthattrulyneeded0 karma

How often do you get mistaken for the musician, Lisa Leblanc?

liseleblanc1 karma

Yes quite often, I’m just hoping she gets mistaken for me as well!