Caring for a family member can be so rewarding. For many, caregiving is an opportunity to show love and appreciation to a parent (or someone close) for a lifetime of nurture and protection. It’s a chance to repay a loved one for their upbringing. It’s a chance to say, “thank you.”
Though fulfilling in plenty of ways, caring for a loved one can also be stressful. Many family caregivers find themselves stretched too thin or unable to balance their personal lives with meeting the needs of someone outside of their home. For some, the shifting of roles from child to care provider can also be a lot to handle.
It’s common to feel the emotional and physical weight of such a demanding job. But, caring for yourself is just as important as caring for a loved one.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that comes from neglecting your own emotional, physical, and spiritual health (Cleveland Clinic).
Sometimes family caregivers get so busy taking care of a loved one that they forget about their own needs. They often feel overwhelmed trying to separate their duties from their personal lives; spouses, children, friends, and work can become a difficult juggling act. Financial frustrations and lack of control over a loved one’s declining health can also create feelings of guilt. Physical and mental fatigue begin taking a heavy toll if left unchecked.
Warning Signs Of Caregiver Stress & Burnout
Everyone is different. Caregiver stress and subsequent burnout can manifest under all kinds of circumstances. Sometimes, you may not recognize that you’re getting close to a breaking point until the stress becomes unmanageable. A study conducted by the CDC found that over 50% of family caregivers experience stress-related declines in health, compromising their ability to provide care. Here are some common signs that you may be experiencing caregiver burnout:
- Feeling tired often
- Becoming easily agitated
- Feelings of anger or frustration toward the loved one you’re caring for
- Feeling disconnected from your loved one
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Feelings of indifference toward your loved one
- Denial about your loved one’s health condition
- Difficulty sleeping
- Social withdrawal
- Anxiety about responsibilities
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Unable to eat a balanced diet
- Increased use of alcohol or misuse of prescription drugs
Do not forget how important your own health and well-being are. If you don’t feel well, you won’t be able to care for anyone else effectively and wholly. Self-care is essential to eliminating caregiver burnout.
So, what is self-care? It’s any conscious act that a person engages in to promote their own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Physical self-care includes sleeping well, eating right, and getting enough exercise.
Mental self-care includes doing things that keep your mind sharp and healthy. Hobbies like reading are important for mental stimulation. And, fostering feelings of acceptance and self-compassion helps you grow a healthier inner dialogue.
Emotional self-care includes healthy coping mechanisms for anger, anxiety, and sadness, as well as improving your ability to process such emotions. Emotional self-care can be resting, healthy eating, or even meditating. It’s also important to nurture relationships with family and friends.
Spiritual self-care includes anything that fosters your sense of meaning or connection with the universe. It can be praying, attending a religious service, meditating, or just enjoying the outdoors to connect with nature.
How To Care For Yourself
Providing care for a loved one at home can cause stress for even the most resilient person. For this reason, it’s important to take advantage of tools and strategies that can help! So, how can you manage caregiver stress and care for yourself?
Ask For Help
You don’t always have to do it all! If others are offering, accept help. If they haven’t offered yet, then ask for help. Keep your team involved!
Remember when you put together your caregiving team? Did you add some of those “shoulders to cry on” or “high-fiving hands?” Well, now is the time to call on them, because staying well-connected and receiving support are going to do wonders! Having your feelings validated and receiving encouragement are important parts of staying healthy, both emotionally and mentally. This can also be accomplished through a community support group!
Talk To a Counselor
Speaking with a health professional or counselor can be very useful. From these resources, you’ll learn strategies for coping with stress and identify ways to strengthen relationships that may be strained as a result of caregiver stress.
Get Outside Help – Respite
Taking a break might be just what you and your senior loved one need! And, respite care can help.
Respite care is any service or support that provides short-term relief to caregivers. Respite enables those who regularly care for a loved one to take time away from their usual duties. It can take place at home through a home care agency, at a center with adult day services, or at residential facilities.
Depending on your loved one’s needs or health conditions, a home care agency can provide companionship, assistance with ADLs, medication reminders, and even homemaker services like cleaning or meal prep.
Adult Day Services
Adult day services offer professional care, socialization, and enrichment opportunities in community-based group settings. These programs usually provide health monitoring, meals and snacks, assistance with ADLs, social activities, exercise, and much more.
Assisted living facilities or nursing homes may offer care to non-residents on an as-needed basis. Respite in a residential facility can include overnight stays, health monitoring, medication management, skilled nursing, exercise, and more.
Want to learn more about respite? Then, click here!
A Word On Providing Home Care To A Family Member, From Senior Resource
Caring for a senior family member can be equal parts rewarding and stressful. At times, everything will go smoothly – just as planned. Other times, you’ll feel like you can’t do anything right. Throughout all of its ups and downs, never lose sight of why you chose to become a caregiver. Know that your loved one’s quality of life is better because of you.
If you’re providing home care to a family member, you don’t have to do it alone! Whether you’re looking for financial assistance, agency help, or something else, here are some additional resources to get you going:
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Area Agencies on Aging
- Caregiver Action Network
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- CDC, Coping with Stress
- National Respite Network
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Need something else?
Whether it’s time for a change, or you’re just doing some research, we can help! At SeniorResource.com, we believe in the empowerment of older adults and their caregivers through knowledge. But, we also understand that at this juncture of life, time is your most valuable asset. So, why waste it doing another internet search? Senior Resource is your one-stop spot for all things retirement. We do the work and find all the facts, just so you don’t have to!
SeniorResource.com exists to provide aging adults, retirees, and caregivers with applicable, and educational content, relevant to the over 55 community. As such, we address topics like senior housing, nursing care, and aging-in-place.
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