Our elders are now living longer than ever, often in their own homes. As they age, they sometimes require more and more help to remain safe in their homes. If you are a caregiver for your aging parent, please know that you are offering an incredible gift. But as important as it is to care for your loved one, it is also important to take care of YOURSELF to prevent what’s known as caregiver burnout.
Consider the following example:
Susan is a 52 year old wife, mother of three children in their 20s, and grandmother of twin 2 year olds. She works full time as a special ed teacher and babysits her grandchildren on Saturday mornings. This Thursday morning, Susan woke up at 5:30 am to get ready for work, threw dinner in the crock-pot, and called to check on her mother Evelyn. She made sure that Evelyn had taken her morning medications and gotten dressed for the day. Susan worked from 7:30 to 4:30 at a school across town. She loves her work, but it is quite physically demanding as many of her students have physical disabilities.
Today was a particularly difficult day because two children had emotional outbursts and one had to be physically restrained. After work, Susan stopped by her mother’s home to make sure that she took her afternoon medication and that she ate the lunch that Susan prepared the previous evening. Some days Susan arrives to find that her mother has been incontinent (had a bladder accident) so she helps her get cleaned up and changes her clothes. Susan then headed home to finish up dinner and eat with her husband who arrived home late from work. After dinner Susan finished up school work and then returned to her mother’s home to make sure she’d eaten, to prepare a lunch for the next day, and to give evening medications. She fed and watered Evelyn’s cat, went through the mail, and assisted Evelyn to bed.
Susan finally settled in at home around 9:30 pm when her youngest daughter, Emily, called to talk about her upcoming wedding. Susan has been working on the invitations for weeks, but still has a lot of work to do. Now Emily needs her to make some calls about the wedding venue. Susan added the appropriate phone numbers to her already jam-packed agenda for the next day. By the time Susan goes through her nightly routine and gets in bed, it’s already 11:45. She’s completely exhausted and frustrated that tomorrow she has to do it all over again. She’s beginning to feel resentful and anxious about all the things that she doesn’t have time to do.
It’s not hard to imagine that Susan is struggling to physically and emotionally manage all the demands that are placed on her. She loves her family, her job, and her mother. She loves that they all need her and that she’s able to help. The only problem is, she’s EXHAUSTED, STRESSED, and plain WORN OUT. What she’s experiencing could be the beginning of caregiver burnout.
What is caregiver burnout?
According to WebMD “caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude – from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able – either physically or financially. Caregivers who are ‘burned out’ may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones.”
Here are 7 ways to prevent caregiver burnout
- Hire help. Click here for more details.
- Look into “Respite Care.” This is a service sometimes provided by assisted living or nursing home facilities to give caregivers a much needed break. Respite care in these facilities can be set up for a few hours one day or for a few weeks a year to allow caregivers to take a true vacation.
- Added bonus: if long term assisted living or nursing home placement is being discussed, then this is a great temporary option. It allows the older adult to experience living in a particular facility before committing to moving in. Click here to learn more.
- Check with the VA. If your loved one is a veteran, they may qualify for in home or facility provided respite care.
- Consider adult daycare. If your loved one requires constant supervision throughout the day, adult daycare facilities can offer a safe environment. The setting can also provide a stimulating environment and allow your loved one to be engaged with their peers.
- Sign up for a local meal delivery service such as Meals on Wheels.
- Make time to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat healthfully. These things will go a long way toward keeping your energy levels up so you can help your loved one.
- Take some time for yourself: go to a movie, read a book, binge watch your favorite show, do yoga, go for a walk, go on a date with your spouse, have a night out with your friends, enjoy a glass of wine, take a long weekend…..Click here for a list of 100 ways to prevent caregiver burnout.