While caring for a senior loved one can be very rewarding, the responsibility can quickly cause damaging stress for the caregiver. This is especially true for those in the sandwich generation – middle-aged adults that care for an aging parent while raising their own children. Constant worry over a loved one’s needs can cause you to forget about your own. Without proper support and management, the stress of your caregiving responsibilities can ultimately lead to caregiver burnout. You may have reached burnout if:
You seem to be on a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute you are in good spirits, but then something minor causes you to become irritable, impatient, overwhelmed, or angry. While it’s natural to experience frustration over your caregiving responsibilities, serious problems like anxiety or depression need medical attention.
Your to-do list is too long. This adds feelings of helplessness to your string of emotions. With your loved one’s care needs being a top priority, there seems to be little time left to get any other tasks done, let alone take care of your own needs.
The demands are taking a toll on your health. When you’re under great stress, your immune system starts to suffer. You constantly feel exhausted. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and no time to exercise will have you getting sick more often and staying sick longer. Not to mention your lack of time that prevents you from making a visit to the doctor.
You can’t remember the last time you had a break. Between caring for your senior loved one, your children, your career, and any other obligations, there’s no time or energy left to take care of yourself. With so many things on your plate, your relationships with family and friends become neglected and often suffer, leaving you feeling guilty.
You feel like you’re in it alone. The caregiving responsibilities may fall on you because you’re the only family nearby. If there are others available, without an established care plan and delegated tasks for everyone involved, you can easily become the go-to caregiver. Even those with good intentions may never know you need help unless you reach out.
You no longer find satisfaction in caregiving. You find yourself becoming more impatient and irritable toward the loved one you’re caring for. It’s hard for you to keep helping someone who cannot show any gratitude or appreciation for your efforts, especially those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. You start to resent the person and your choice to revolve your life around caring for them.
If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms listed above, you’ve probably also felt guilty about having them. However, it’s crucial to remember that you cannot provide quality care for your loved one if you aren’t also taking care of yourself. Focus on keeping yourself healthy by getting routine check-ups and immunizations, and letting your doctor know that you may need support as a caregiver. Exercise can also make a world of difference – even a short, 10 minute walk – in boosting your mood, relieving stress, and helping you sleep better. Taking even just a few hours for yourself to relax will help you recharge to take on all your responsibilities.
Remember, you can’t do everything! Keep a list handy so that when family and friends ask how they can help, you can give them a specific task to take care of. Prioritize your to-do list to eliminate the stress you feel when not getting everything done. While it may be difficult at times, try to avoid having a pity party, and instead applaud yourself. The work you are doing does make a difference, even when you don’t feel appreciated.
In many cases, it may be best to reach out for professional help. An in-home caregiver from Amada Senior Care will allow an aging senior to remain in a familiar environment in the adult child’s home, or to age in place in their own home. Amada can also help you find an assisted-living community that best fits the needs of your senior loved one. By relieving the stress of meeting a senior’s caregiving needs, you can avoid caregiver burnout and better focus on your own needs and the needs of other family members. Knowing your loved one is being taken care of will also give you peace of mind.
Written by Taylor French, Amada contributor.