Kevin, a professional caregiver in a leading senior living community, is typical of many in his field. He has trouble asking for help – which can lead to feelings of caregiver burnout. “I will crash and burn before saying what I need for myself,” he says. “My job is to care for, not to be cared for. I don’t want to burden others with my problems.”
With the help of a Lifetime Wellness program, dedicated to employee life enrichment, Kevin is learning to open up about his needs and to do something that doesn’t come naturally for him: receive.
Lifetime Wellness provides person-centered life enrichment, wellness, and recreational programs to independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and memory care facilities – for residents and employees alike that help promote wellness and avoid employee caregiver burnout. These programs are a key competitive differentiator in attracting dedicated staff, keeping them happy, and reducing workforce turnover.
“Hour after hour, day after day, caregivers give their all,” says Stephen Chee, director of employee wellness at Lifetime Wellness. “But often, the ‘outcome of the outpour’ is compassion fatigue or caregiver burnout – physical, mental, and spiritual depletion. Most caregivers, like Kevin, are hardwired not to receive. Their ‘well’ eventually runs dry, and they become unwell.”
To address this depletion, progressive employers are offering their staff lifetime enrichment activities that speak to the needs of body, mind, and spirit. “These three parts of ourselves are all connected,” Chee says. “For health and harmony, they need to be in balance.”
Caring for the Body
Often, the first sign of imbalance for professional caregivers is fatigue.
“The body is the vessel in which we move through the world,” Chee says. “When our bodies break down, the vessel leaks. Our energy is drained, our immune system is weakened, and we’re increasingly vulnerable to illness.”
From onsite fitness classes to health education, the Lifetime Wellness Caregiver Wellness Program provides a variety of activities to reignite energy and support physical wellbeing. Onsite preventive screenings help employees understand the current state of their bodies and detect health problems before symptoms appear. Certified professional fitness trainers engage staff in exercise, strength training, and yoga. Massage therapists offer relief from muscle and joint aches – the typical effects of a physically demanding job. Health coaches provide ongoing guidance to caregivers on how to take better care of themselves.
Clearing the Mind
“Like our bodies, our minds are powerful tools,” Chee says. “Being under constant stress can muddle the mind, leading to negative thoughts and disruptive emotions.”
The Lifetime Wellness program provides quarterly in-service education that focuses on such topics as improving state of mind by understanding emotional ‘triggers.’ Employees practice techniques to strengthen coping skills and to become more mindful in their self-care.
Chee shares his own practice for mind-clearing. “As I start each day, I write down opportunities to love and to receive love. It gives me a sense of inner calm – and of external readiness, to open new doors to healthy experiences.”
Connecting With the Spiritual Side
“Caregiving is a profession with a strong spiritual dimension,” Chee says. “It’s tough work. But it also provides countless opportunities for expressing our truest and kindest selves. When we give care out of our compassion, we expand the capacity of our own hearts.”
Employee support groups offer a safe forum for connecting with the spiritual side through sharing experiences, building relationships, and learning together how to set healthy boundaries. Lifetime Wellness facilitators also coordinate any prayer requests from caregiver staff.
“When you’re authentically part of a group of people who are going through the same things you’re going through, you can transcend your personal challenges,” Chee notes. “Perspectives are refreshed. Motivation is reawakened. Nothing is more powerful than knowing ‘we’re all in this together.’”
Changing the Picture
In commercial airplanes, the sign over the oxygen mask provides clear instructions: Should the cabin lose pressure, secure your own oxygen mask before helping your children or others. It’s a message that translates readily to professional caregivers: to effectively care for others, care first for yourself.
“Leaders in the senior care industry know that employee caregivers are at the core of their success,” Chee says. “By holistically addressing staff needs with life enrichment programs, they’re changing the picture of an unhappy, burned-out workforce. The new world of care is one where employees are genuinely cared for, fully encouraged to care for themselves, and wholeheartedly supported in their mission to care for others.”