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Caregivers: If You’re Feeling Overwhelmed, “HALT”

Stephanie Kozakiewicz, a VITAS social worker, says caregivers should always remember the acronym "HALT."

The Hardest Job

“Caregiving is the hardest job in the world,” says Stephanie Kozakiewicz, a VITAS social worker.

Stephanie is talking about caregivers who are involved in the regular, voluntary care of a loved one, whether that person is a spouse, parent, child, relative or friend.

As a hospice social worker, Stephanie often meets caregivers who are caring for terminally-ill loved ones; sometimes they’ve been doing it for years. Over any amount of time, caregiving can be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Stephanie’s Advice: “HALT”

When Stephanie meets caregivers, she asks them to remember the acronym “HALT.”

She says caregivers should not let themselves become too:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

“As a caregiver, you’re going to experience all of those things at one time or another, and it’s okay to be there. Just don’t stay there,” Stephanie advises. “If you do, you’re not going to be a good decision maker, you’re not going to be able to love properly, and everything is going to seem exaggerated to you.”

Overwhelmed? Here’s What to Do Next

If you’re a caregiver and often feel hungry, angry, lonely and/or tired, Stephanie says, “We need to back up.”

“You’re not alone, that’s number one. Please allow VITAS to share this journey with you. We consider it an honor and a privilege to be part of your life right now; let us share some of the responsibilities,” Stephanie says to overwhelmed caregivers.

Do you need the support of hospice services for yourself or a loved one? Call VITAS at 866.418.4827 or contact us online

It’s Stephanie’s job to find resources to help caregivers. That could mean finding anything from private-duty caregivers who can come into the home, to a new home for the patient in a professional care facility. Each situation is unique, based on the needs of the patient and family.

One Day at a Time

“What are some things you’re willing to let go of, willing to let other people do?” That’s a question Stephanie asks caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed.

It could be as simple as providing one good meal a day for the caregiver. It could be scheduling outside help to give the caregiver a break and some time away.

Stephanie recalls the woman who was taking care of her seriously ill mother. “She was at her wit’s end. But I was able to facilitate getting her a manicure, a pedicure and a massage. That’s what she said she needed—someone to love on her for a little bit, because she was giving everything she could to love on her mother,” Stephanie says.

“HALT,” “back up,” “let go”—the message is clear: Slow down and reassess.

“Let’s back up and take one day at a time,” Stephanie says.