Five Rights Overwhelmed Caregivers Have (But May Not Realize)

Five Rights Overwhelmed Caregivers Have (But May Not Realize)

by Karen Bromberg




When I think back to my days as an overwhelmed caregiver, the one thing that comes to mind was how stoically I went through my days. Oh, I complained. Just ask my friends. I complained about how tired I was and how frustrated I felt. You name it. I’d complain about it.


But when all was said and done (and I finally finished my complaining), the one thing I typically said was “ . . . all-in-all, I guess I’m doing as well as can be expected, given the circumstances.”


Of course, I wasn’t. Anyone who’s done family caregiving for more than five minutes knows that I wasn’t. But what was I going to do? Tell them that my heart was breaking? Tell them that I was in tears pretty much all the time and when I wasn’t in tears, I was so angry that it took all my self-control not to throw something?


How could I say that?


First of all, I felt that most people didn’t REALLY care. I mean, they asked but I felt as though they were doing it more out of social obligation than really wanting to know. (As I came to realize, in some cases, I was 100% correct.)


I also felt that I wouldn’t be understood and by extension, be judged. And of course, there was the guilt. There was always the guilt.


My years of being a caregiver to my parents are over now and what I’ve come to realize (even more now than before) is that caregiving is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard, requiring us to have grit and fortitude, wisdom and an internal strength that those who have never done caregiving can’t understand.


On a daily basis it requires us to look at our positive and negative qualities, our wants and desires then take them all and push them to the side in the service of another/others.


That said, I’ve also come to realize that caregivers also have certain rights.


We have the right to:


  1. not want to be a caregiver.

But, of course, you do it. You care-give every day and really, you wouldn’t have it any other way. But let’s be honest, no one ever asked for it. I mean, it’s not like you woke up one day all bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited at the prospect, rubbing your hands together, saying to yourself, “oh boy, I think today I’ll be a caregiver.” No, it’s more like you were chugging along in your life, then one day – BOOM — the you-know-what hits the fan and there you are – a caregiver. Perhaps, your caregiving situation came up slowly. Perhaps you saw it coming. Even so, it probably still caught you by surprise because, really, no matter how much a person prepares, somehow caregiving ALWAYS manages to catch one off-guard.


  1. to be angry.

Of course, you do! There you were: being a parent, being a spouse, an employee, a daughter (or son) then all of a sudden you became a caregiver. No preparation. No instruction booklet. And now, here you are on the front-line: dealing with the medical community, dealing with the insurance company, dealing with Medicare or Medicaid. All while the person you love so much is sick or injured. You feel the pressure, having it all in your lap. Having to deal with it day in and day out. Oh, sometimes a relative or friend will step up to help you out, but for the most part, it’s all on YOU. And you get angry. Not at the person you’re caring for necessarily but at the situation itself.


  1. to feel resentful.

You look at others: going out to the movies, going out to dinner, going away on vacation, and see them laughing and having a good time the way you used to. Enjoying life. You feel the knot in your gut as you remember doing all the things you used to do and long to do them again. Then there are the times when you find yourself on a bus or in a grocery store or at the newspaper stand and happen to overhear folks either behind you or ahead of you online complaining about their co-workers or their boss, whining about how tough their life is. You feel the grip in your belly. You want to tell them, “Tough . . . you think your life is tough? Try not sleeping for a week because you mother keeps you up at night. Try worrying about how you are going to keep it all together because your boss is getting down on you for all the time you’ve had to take off caring for your Dad. Try figuring out how you are going to do retirement because five years ago you had to quit your job to take care of your dying wife, now that she’s gone no one wants to hire you. Try that out for size then come back and tell me how tough your life is.” Except you don’t. You bite your tongue and move on.




As caregivers, we so often have to navigate situations and feelings similar to the ones above. We do it so often that we can think that’s all there is. Oh, we remember better times and we may even look forward to having them again sometime in the distant future, but we assume that in the present slogging through our days is all there is.


Now, to be clear, not everybody is going to go through all of these at the same time – at least I hope not – but if you do, if you find that your appetite or sleep pattern is being affected by the stress caused by your caregiving responsibilities, if you find you’re dragging through the day, if you find no pleasure in the things that you used to like doing please, please, please, I beg you, seek out professional help and support.


Remember, while you have the right to feel all your feelings, you don’t want them getting in the way of your day-to-day life. Remember, too, that even though you are busy caregiving, you have the right to feel joy and excitement, love and a sense of wellbeing.


You also have the right to


:: ask others for help.

Now, I know this takes courage. Picking up the phone. Making that call. Asking. It sounds easy but in fact, it can be one of the hardest yet bravest things you can do. Being vulnerable. But you might be surprised. People want to help. They just may not know how. Let’s face it, not everybody is equipped to do everything. Your sister might not be comfortable cooking dinner for Mom but she might be perfectly willing, even happy, to take her to her doctor’s appointment. Your brother might not want to change Dad’s Depends but is thrilled to be able to spend one-on-one time with him while feeding him. Ideally, the best thing is to have something akin to “a committee” of people to call on; different people for different tasks. Of course, if this is not possible (because most of the time it isn’t), finding those two or three people who are willing to pitch in, then asking when you need it, can make such a big difference.


Not just that, you also have the right to


:: receive.

By nature caregivers give. It’s just who we are. It’s what we do. And it’s how we’re comfortable going through life. But giving and giving all the time can lead to our “our cups” being empty which makes it that much harder to give. If it becomes hard to give, we risk burnout. We become burnt-out, we risk becoming less effective caregivers. I know, for those of us wired to give, it takes practice to be able to receive, but it is SOOOO worth it! As the old TV commercial used to say, “Try it, you’ll like it.”


Any comments? I’d love to hear it.



Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at or via phone 929-276-2109. Want to get more information about how you can make your caregiving journey easier, simply fill out the form below and join our mailing list.

Eight Ridiculously Easy Relaxation Tips Overwhelmed Caregivers Can Do To Make 2018 A Less Stressful Year

Eight Ridiculously Easy Relaxation Tips Overwhelmed Caregivers Can Do To Make 2018 A Less Stressful Year

by Karen Bromberg




So, it’s 2018. Can you believe it?

If you’re anything like me, you look upon this time of year with excitement, hope, relief (yes, you actually survived 2017!) and even a little bit of dread, gazing upon your care recipients, remembering with fondness what they were able to do last year (two years ago, three years ago, five and ten years ago) at this time.

You try not to think about it, but can’t help yourself yet the more you think about it, the worse you feel. 

But, there is good news and no, it has nothing to do with turning back the hand of time. It does, however, have to do with making small changes that can reap great benefits.

Needless to say, the exercise that I go over below should not be done while driving or in a public place. To that end, I recommend finding a quiet place in your home to do them.




  1. Spend five minutes (more if you can) every morning in meditation. Meditation is great. It allows the mind to be quiet and the body to relax. Feel free to sit up in bed, back resting against the headboard, or in a chair with feet on the floor. You can even lie down (though you may end up falling asleep). The main thing is to have a quiet environment where you feel safe (both physically and mentally), close your eyes then once your eyes are closed, focus on your breath. Repeat an uplifting phrase. No, it doesn’t have to be “OM,” but something that works for you.


  1. Spend at least five minutes (more if you can) in meditation before going to bed. As stated above meditation can be done sitting or lying in bed. In my experience, quieting the mind and relaxing the body before sleep allows for a far more restful slumber.


  1. Sit for a few minutes every day doing nothing but focusing on the breath. The inhalations. The exhalations. Feeling the cool air going into your nostrils. The warm air releasing from them. You’ll notice that the mind will be less active and your body will feel less stressed.


  1. Do a grounding exercise once a day. Sit comfortably, feet on the floor, and slowly look around. That’s all it takes. Look in front of you, behind you, to your left, to your right. Look up and look down. But just don’t look. Really look. See what’s there. The objects in the room. The walls. The floor. The lighting fixtures. The patterns in the linoleum. Examine any pictures that may be in the room. Tell yourself, “I am here. This is 2018 and I am sitting in my home. I am performing this grounding exercise and in this moment everything is okay.” By scanning your environment you take yourself out of your head and the scary future and ground yourself in the immediate present.


  1. Eat properly. I know, we’ve heard it a million times. If we don’t fuel the body well, how can we expect it to perform? But think about it. If we don’t feed it well, we force it to work harder. We force it to work harder, it becomes stressed. It becomes stressed, we end up feeling the stress. Now I’m no dietician, but the argument seems to make sense to me. If we feed the body well and fuel it properly then we’re just better able to navigate the world. But, the question is how do we do it when we have NO time? My thoughts . . . Batch kitchen tasks.


                                 :: Cut up all the veggies you’ll need for the week at the same time.

                                 :: Marinate all the meats you’ll be cooking for the week at the same time.

                                 :: Cook several meals at once. This is especially easy when you prepare stews or soups.


  1. It’s well known that exercise relieves stress. If going to a gym is not possible then do it at home. Look on the Internet, on YouTube, find something that will be fun. Put on some music and dance around your living room. You can even buy a piece of equipment and if space is an issue, no worries, there are really small ones. I have a mini elliptical which stores away in my closet. If you don’t have time, then exercise for five minutes, ten minutes, anything is better than nothing but make sure to check with your physician first, before starting any exercise program or before ramping up whatever exercise you are currently doing. Seriously. It’s important.


  1. Laugh everyday day. Do it even if you don’t feel like it, even if there seems to be nothing to laugh about. Get on the phone and talk to a “funny” friend. Stream a funny movie or TV show. Laughter increases serotonin (the “feel-good” chemical) in the brain, which, in turn, relaxes the body.


  1. Finally, allow the people in your life to help you. It’s hard, I know. Letting others do for you when you are far more comfortable doing for others. But think about it, wouldn’t it be relaxing to have someone take care of you once in a while?



The key here is to start small –  one thing at a time – and build slowly. Be gentle with yourself and remember only you know whether something is working for you or not. If it’s not, then forget it and move on.

I want to wish you the happiest of new years!




Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at or via phone 929-276-2109.

My Number One, Best Relaxation Tip For Overwhelmed Caregivers

My Number One, Best Relaxation Tip For Overwhelmed Caregivers

by Karen Bromberg




I want to share a little story.

This happened many years ago. My husband and I were at this concert. No, not a Bruce Springsteen concert. Not a Madonna concert. Not even a James Taylor concert (though we did see James Taylor with Carole King at Madison Square Garden several years later).

This concert was with Paul Winter, a renowned saxophonist, with more than 40 albums, and his band, The Paul Winter Consort. It was his annual “Winter Solstice Concert” that takes place at St. John the Divine on New York’s Upper West Side.

It’s an amazing concert in an amazing space. St. John the Divine is big and cavernous, it’s “the largest cathedral in the world, making it a global landmark.” If you’ve never been, I highly recommend a visit, but I digress.

It was during the concert, specifically as Paul Winter was introducing one of his signature pieces, that this occurred. He said something that’s always stayed with me. He was talking about the significance of light in the celebration of the winter holidays (religious history and significance aside) and about how, during the darkest time of the year, we use the light from candles and bulbs, which “are kin to the fiery rites of old, which celebrated the miracle of earth’s renewal.

Blew my mind.

But what does it have to do with caregivers? And overwhelmed caregivers at that?

Wait. Keep reading. I think you’re gonna like this.


Darkness vs Light


Every year, right around this time, I remember what Paul Winter said during that concert, and yes, no doubt, it’s likely because with the sun rising around 7:15 am and setting around 4:30 pm, where I am, I’m a little light deprived.

But I have to say, it’s actually much more.

If you are anything like me, there’s a hopelessness and fear inherent in darkness. We walk down streets a little faster. Maybe look over our shoulders more often without even realizing it. We hunker down and hibernate. True, it’s partly because of the cold but if we think about it, it’s also partly because of the darkness. 

Yet every time I look at Christmas lights or at the flame at the tip of Chanukkah and Kwanzaa candles, I feel better. My spirits are lifted and I feel more hopeful and joyful. Perhaps it’s because, as Paul Winter says, they symbolize renewal and the return of the sun.

It’s this interplay between the darkness and the light, the duality of them, that was just so evident for me this year with the passing of my parents. Each time I fell into a crying jag a friend or family member invariably would remind me of my memories, and (in my father’s case, being that he passed after my mother), how “they are now together.”

Without realizing it, my family and friends were reminding me of the light.

It’s so easy for us to fall into the darkness in our lives. With so much to do day-in and day-out – we put our heads down, we stick blinders on and we focus on the task at hand, the one goal being to get to the end of the day – that we forget to occasionally let in the light. But what if we did? What if we take the glasses with the dark lenses in them off and replace them with a pair that lets in the light? What would that be like?

Maybe instead of seeing only despair, we could also see the joy? Maybe instead of only seeing the sadness that’s around us, we could also appreciate the happiness? Maybe instead of feeling hopeless at things we obviously can’t control, we can also see some possibilities? 

Imagine how different our days, weeks and months might be if we could do that? Even a teeny tiny bit. 

So okay, you’ve guessed it, my number one best relaxation tip for overwhelmed caregivers is (drum roll, please), to focus on the light. 

I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you the very best this holiday season but most of all, I want to take this opportunity to wish you love and light.



Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at or via phone 929-276-2109.

The Why and How of Relaxation

The Why and How of Relaxation

By Karen Bromberg




In a previous blog post entitled Caregiver Stress, I mentioned the body’s “fight or flight” response. Today, I want to look a little more deeply into this because from my perspective, it becomes easier to navigate something once we can understand it. 


The physiology of stress


So, the physiology of stress. It’s complicated but I will do my best to simplify it as much possible. In the body, we have the Autonomic Nervous System and, as Dr. Phillip Low, MD, Professor of Neurology; Consultant, Department of Neurology, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic; Mayo Clinic says in an article entitled Overview of the Autonomic Nervous System, “The autonomic nervous system regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure and the rate of breathing. This system works automatically (autonomously), without a person’s conscious effort.

Within the Autonomic Nervous System, we have the sympathetic nervous system responsible for the “flight or fight response” and the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for “rest and recovery.”

So when we get stressed, our bodies immediately kick into action. Hormones get secreted and the body readies itself for action. In an article entitled The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, author Michael Randal states that “The human stress response involves a complex signaling pathway among neurons and somatic cells” with cortisol being “the primary hormone responsible for the stress response.” According to him, “The effects of cortisol are felt over virtually the entire body and impact several homeostatic mechanisms. While cortisol’s primary targets are metabolic, it also affects ion transport, the immune response, and even memory.”

Now, remember not all stress is bad. Some of it is, depending on the situation, can even be beneficial. It can help us when we have that mountain of work to do, or if have to go to that board meeting that we just don’t want to. Stress can be just the motivator we need to get us over the hump. 

The problem is when we have too much of it over time and it becomes chronic. As Jane Collingwood states in an article titled, The Physical Effects of Long-Term Stress on, “Chronic stress can have a serious impact on our physical as well as psychological health due to sustained high levels of the chemicals released in the ‘fight or flight’ response.” 

But there is good news, too. It comes in the form of the parasympathetic nervous system because this system allows the body to throttle back, relax and recover but we have to give it time so do that.

“How much? An hour? Two hours?” I hear you asking. “Come-on, I’m busy. I can’t afford to sit around, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my parasympathetic nervous system. I have responsibilities. A spouse. Kids. A job. Not to mention everything I have to do for Mom (or Dad, or whomever).”

Yeah, I get that. Not all that long ago I would’ve said the exact same thing, only I probably wouldn’t have said it quite so nicely.


So, really, how long will does it take?


The other piece of good news is that it doesn’t have to take that long at all. Really, it depends on how much time YOU have. A few minutes? Totally fine. But if you have longer than that, it’s even better.

So, for the sake of this discussion, let’s say you have a weekend all to yourself. Yes, a whole weekend. Two days. Forty-eight hours. With nothing to do for anyone but yourself. Your sister finally decided to step up to the plate. She’s going to come over and stay with Mom so that you can take the weekend off and get some much-needed R & R. Yipee. You’re thrilled. You don’t ask why she’s suddenly making herself so available. You don’t ask why she’s making the offer, you just accept it and start planning what you’re going to do – maybe go to the mountains or go to the beach – and what you are going to take with you.

You imagine packing and all of a sudden you become even more tired. The thought of actually getting in a car and hauling yourself anywhere feels just too much. You are that pooped. The solution, go to a nearby hotel, maybe even one with a spa. You can rent a room, get a massage and room service, really pamper yourself and if you happen to be a worrier (like me) being close by if your sister calls in a panic about something having to do with Mom, you can still check in at the house (if that makes you feel better) then “disappear” again. 

But what if you only have a couple of hours? Mom is at respite care and you know better than anyone that her limit for being out of the house is two hours, no more. After that she gets cranky. So what then? How about an exercise class? Maybe a yoga class? Being a yoga practitioner for over twenty years and a yoga teacher, I can tell you, first-hand, how powerful yoga is when it comes to relaxing the body and clearing the mind. 

But if exercise classes and yoga aren’t your thing, how about going to the mall? Or take a gentle walk in nature? You can call a friend and the two of you can go for a mani/pedi together then maybe for lunch afterward.

If you have only twenty minutes? Meditation or do a deep relaxation. If you don’t know how, you can always Google meditation or deep relaxation or, if you prefer, you can always go onto There, you will find instructional video clips. Simply scroll down for the video you want.

And if you have only a couple of minutes . . . deep breathing exercises. Again, feel free to do a Google for instructions but for convenience, again feel free to onto and scroll down.




Have you found the information in this blog useful? Please let us know by commenting below.

Karen Bromberg is the founder of as well as a certified caregiving consultant. You can check her out on Facebook. Feel free to join of FREE Facebook group then simply click the green “Join” button on the top of the page. If you’d like to email her, feel free at

Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver Burnout

By Karen Bromberg


What is it and how does it differ from caregiver stress?


I’m so glad you asked.

Caregivers experience stress, that’s a given. It’s like getting sunburnt if you sit out in the sun too long without sunscreen; it’s like getting wet if you walk in the rain without an umbrella. You provide care to someone and you’re going to get stressed. It comes with the territory.

Just run a quick Google search and you’ll see just how prevalent it is. But wait, you may say, isn’t caregiver stress and caregiver burnout the same thing? I mean, I’m looking at my Google search results and they seem to use “caregiver stress” and “caregiver burnout” synonymously.

Well, they’re not. What do I mean? Let’s take a closer look.

Author Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. points out in a blog post entitled The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them? Running out of gas? Recognizing the signs of burnout before it’s too late on, “When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level.”


But, you may be asking, when does stress cross over and become burn-out?

Short answer, it can be different for each person. It is when a loved one is being rushed yet again to the emergency room? Or when one’s mother or father move in and turn a once relatively quiet existence upside down? Perhaps it’s when the doctor gives the dreaded diagnosis after months of a loved one having this or that illness? It may be any one or none of those things.

So . . .


Could you be burnt out and not even know it?



Several weeks ago, I was preparing to do a Facebook Livestream. The topic? What else? Caregiver Burnout. I read a bunch of articles and blog posts. To my surprise, I found myself identifying with many of the symptoms: inability to function, detachment, overwhelm.

I was amazed. Truly, it was an eye-opener! I mean, I’d been accused of being detached. Imagine my surprise!

To be honest it made total sense. After all, my parents had died. I was busy at my job. I was trying to catch up with things, things that were important to me, things I let slide during my parents’ illnesses and death. In essence, I was trying to get my life back, all while still struggling with exhaustion.

I had no idea I was burnt out, but as Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. reminds us in her blog post, The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them? Running out of gas? Recognizing the signs of burnout before it’s too late in, “You don’t wake up one morning and all of a sudden ‘have burnout.’ Its nature is much more insidious, creeping up on us over time like a slow leak, which makes it much harder to recognize.”


So what do I do if I find I’m burnt out?

Even if you think you might be burnt out, the first thing I would do is get checked out by a physician and/or mental health professional, if for no other reason than to get an outsider’s point of view. Now, you can go and talk to a friend, neighbor, or relative and ask him or her if they think you are burnt out but the benefit of being evaluated by a health professional is that the medical professional:


  1. is objective,
  2. can help to alleviate the symptoms and
  3. can help to ultimately resolve the condition.


It’s so important to stay on top of caregiver burnout, I can’t stress it enough. If not for ourselves, then for the ones we care for.

You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole notion of selfishness vs selflessness. I mean, it’s great when we act selflessly; putting others’ needs ahead of our own, not expecting anything (not even a “thank you”) in return. It’s great. I get it. We feel important. We feel essential. And the truth is, we are.

But there also comes a time when we have to take care of ourselves as well and, no it’s not selfish for us to do so. In fact, if we look at it another way, we can put it along with all the myriad of other selfless acts we perform every day. I mean, we’re taking care of ourselves so that we can stay healthy so that we can take care of our mother, father, spouse, etc. 

And no, it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s not if I take care of myself I can’t take care of my loved one. Not at all. Not even in the slightest. Getting a little rest, doing something else while your loved one is well cared for (possibly in respite care) can make all the difference.

So . . . while waiting for our appointment with our medical professional how about figuring out how much stress we’re under. I know. The answer is “lots,” but “lots” doesn’t really say a lot and the more specific we can be as to the areas of where our stress the more we’ll be able to get out of our appointment. 

In last week’s blog post entitled Caregiver Stress, I addressed ways we can assess our stress levels. My suggestion would be to start there, then once done, bring that information with us and talk about it during our appointment. 

The other reason is that once we know what our stress level is, we can start taking steps toward dialing it back. 

How do we dial it back?  Below are a few ideas:


  • Perform relaxation techniques 

    Deep breathing, meditation, deep relaxation are all really good methods for relaxing the body and mind.


  • Take a break 

    For some this is tricky. What if you can’t leave the house? What if your loved one is demanding? What if he or she needs to be able to see you or gets upset if he or she can’t? What happens then? Well, you can still take a break. How about sitting in a chair, eyes closed, listening to beautiful music or if you can’t even do that, how about imagining yourself in a lovely garden, perhaps the beach or mountains. Our minds are such powerful instruments. If we can’t change our external environment, how about changing our internal ones. We can put out mind to work in the service of relaxing US.


  • Relaxing around the difficulties and challenges 

    What I’m talking about here is a mind-shift. Okay, I can see you there, arms crossed, rolling your eyes but hear me out. What if, instead of tightening your bodies when your loved one says or does something irritating you take a deep breath instead? What if, instead of feeling that jab in the gut, that tightness in the shoulders, you shrug it off as nothing more than a thoughtless word? What if instead of wanting to scream when the doctor’s assistant tells you that the doctor is running two hours late, you simply accept it and let the anger simply wash over and out of you? What then? How much easier would your day be? I’m not saying that you should suppress or repress any emotion. That’s not it at all. And trust me what I’m saying isn’t easy (I’m still working on it) but what if instead of falling into old patterns of reacting, we choose a somewhat different way?


  • Find support

    Talk to a friend, family member, someone that you trust and someone that you feel safe with. Remember, there are support groups: in your neighborhood, on the Internet, people who care, people who want to be there for you. Remember, when it comes to family caregiving, there can never be too much support.


Did you find the information in this blog useful? Please let us know by commenting below.

Karen Bromberg is the founder of as well as a certified caregiving consultant. You can check her out on Facebook. Feel free to join of FREE Facebook group then simply click the green “Join” button on the top of the page. If you’d like to email her, feel free at