Love, obligation or maybe out of doing what’s right, you may be one of more than 40 million adults taking care of an elderly, chronically ill, or a disabled loved one, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. In fact, 70 percent of family caretakers take care of one person over 65, while 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia’s. 45% of those caring for spouse or parent reported stress compared with 35% for another relative.
As a senior advisor at North Star Senior Advisors, I have met and spoke to numerous individuals struggling to care for a family member. Several times a day, we hear the sacrifice they endure, and while it is a wonderful thing to be able to help care for mom or dad at home where they feel most comfortable, in some cases, this can become strenuous on the family caregiver as they may get pulled away from other responsibilities.
You may be on the road to caregiver burnout. It’s not taken lightly as psychologists define it as “a debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved stress.” By the time most caregivers suspect burnout, they’re already suffering multiple symptoms.
In addition to coping with a loved one’s illness, you may also deal with financial pressures, changes in family dynamics, and general disruption in family life. It’s a recipe for caregiver burnout that would negatively affect anyone’s ability to provide good care and potentially place the caregiver’s health at risk. There are many individuals considered to be in the sandwich generation, who are currently taking care of their aging parents as well as their own children.
Every day we help families looking for advice and support with their loved ones. We are truly grateful to offer that support and guidance whether it is options for senior living or resources available to them.
If you know what caregiver burnout is or know what the signs look like, you can protect yourself from burning the candle at both ends.
10 Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Feeling tired and run down
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overreacting to minor nuisances, irritable or argumentative with the person you’re caring for and/or with others
- Headaches, stomachaches, and new or worsening health problems
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Changes in eating habits; weight loss or gain
- A feeling of hopelessness
- Withdrawing from, or losing interest in, activities you once enjoyed
- Neglecting your own physical and emotional needs
Caregiver Burnout Prevention
Now that you know what to look for, here are some tips to help you pre-empt caregiver burnout.
- Ask for help! Needing help doesn’t make you a bad caregiver. It simply means you can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t have to. North Star is here for you and can provide community resources for caregivers.
- Take breaks. Give yourself permission to get out of the house. Visit with friends. Pamper yourself with a massage. Take a long bath or watch a relaxing movie.
- Take care of yourself! Don’t skip your own doctor’s appointments because you’re too busy. Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep at night.
- Try to get up 15 minutes earlier to use the time just for you. Sit with your coffee or tea and enjoy it. Journal about your struggles and feelings. Meditate, read, pray, stretch. . . . or simply do what you like to do.
- Make a list of your daily activities and tasks and see if you can delegate any of them to a friend, spouse, family member. Perhaps your spouse can make dinner a few times or maybe a friend or relative can run errands. People often want to help—you just have to ask!
- Check into family-leave benefits from your place of work. FMLA leave is typically provided and can take a huge weight off your shoulders so make sure to ask your workplace for this benefit.
- If an opportunity comes along for a brief getaway for you, consider assisted living respite care for your loved one. Assisted living offers short-term stay for your loved one (up to 30 days) to relieve family members or other persons who are caregivers. North Star can guide you to assisted living respite stays near you!
Ultimately keeping an elderly person home would be ideal for any senior and their loved ones. If the family member can truly provide 24/7 care or can afford in-home care 24/7 then why not allow their senior loved one’s age in place at home? This is not always the norm though. Preparing a family member to decide if an assisted living is the right place can be one of the hardest things to decide. As your advocate, North Star Senior Advisors understands where our clients are coming from and recognizes that having guilt is a normal emotion. Choosing an assisted living or having the thought that you are “putting” your loved one away forever is very emotional.
Visit northstarsa.com for more information or call us at 407-796-1582 to speak with an experienced senior advisor today. We are here for you.