Taking on the role of a caregiver for your elderly family member is often one of the hardest responsibilities you’ll have, especially if it’s parents. Let’s face it, your physical, emotional, and spiritual time and energy is slim to none recently. Between your kids pick up and drop off schedule, after school activities, homework, and daily night time routine, your day is packed with a list of to-dos from the moment you open your eyes. We can’t forget to mention you’re also working a full time job, chores around the house, cooking, and need to exercise. Of course, the thought of there not being enough hours in the day crosses your mind frequently.
Mom I’m Here
Now, let’s add another layer to your daily story. Your mom has been diagnosed with middle stage Alzheimer’s disease. Mom previously lived at home independently, however it’s no longer safe to do so since, she’s previously left the stove on and has burned her arms/hands multiple times. You’re concerned because she’s more confused, has outbursts, hallucinations, and is now wandering around the neighborhood looking for her house at night. She also becomes incontinent, doesn’t enjoy showering, and refuses to change her clothes daily. You move mom into your home so you can try to take care of her and keep her safe.
You notice that your days are now longer and may not get to sleep until midnight or after, but shrug it off and say mom just needs to get adjusted to the new environment. It’s been two months now and things aren’t better and you’re accumulating more bags under your eyes, digestive issues, and easily angered. Let’s navigate some of your feelings and experiences and shine a light at the end of the tunnel to your happiness again.
Signs, Symptoms, and Experiences of Caregiver Burnout
For every one statement that resonates with how you’re currently feeling, put up a finger.
- Physical and emotional exhaustion (Cleveland Clinic Medical, 2023)
- Feeling hopeless or helpless (Cleveland Clinic Medical, 2023)
- Difficulty getting or staying asleep
- Rapid weight gain or loss (Cleveland Clinic Medical, 2023)
- Changes in appetite
- Inability to concentrate on tasks at work or home
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities (Cleveland Clinic Medical, 2023)
- Withdrawal from other family members or friends
- Frequent sickness like colds or resentment toward loved ones and friends (Cleveland Clinic Medical, 2023)
If you have five or more fingers up, and find yourself more frustrated or irritable with the loved one you’re caring for, you are experiencing caregiver burnout. At this point, it’s imperative to your well-being to address these feelings to get relief and support.
Ways to Decrease Caregiver Burnout
First things first, don’t give others a permission slip to care for yourself. Prioritizing your health and self care goes hand and hand with the ability to care for others. You are in charge of filling your cup and only after, pour into others within your boundaries. This may look like:
1. Asking for Help.
Call on siblings or other close family members, friends, or neighbors to share the caregiving load. This may include a rotating schedule of meal prepped dishes, household chores, and utilizing online grocery shopping/pickup options throughout the week. According to the Cleveland Clinic, practice saying yes when someone offers help (Cleveland Clinic Medical, 2023). Asking for help from a healthcare provider can also be key to decreasing feeling overwhelmed and getting the support you need. Even if it’s simply confiding in your primary care physician, referrals for a therapist or social worker can add to your support team.
2. Prioritizing Self-Care.
We’ve all heard the saying that self care isn’t selfish. In fact, self care is a lifestyle that is non-negotiable for caregivers. Be sure to eat balanced meals/snacks throughout the day and hydrate! Even if you have to set alarms! Move your body at least thirty minutes a day, sit outside in nature, meditate, journal, or listen to your favorite music/podcast to decompress. Adopting an adequate sleep schedule with a personal night routine will increase more REM sleep and help you feel refreshed in the morning. Last but not least, do not skip personal care appointments like annual checkups, dental, vision, or therapy. Treat yourself to a facial, massage, date night, concert, or weekend getaway to reset and recharge your mind and body.
Resources Available for Caregivers
- Utilize local organizations such as the Area Agency on Aging in your community that offer respite care, home health assistance, volunteers, or senior centers that offer congregate meal programs.
- Adult day centers can assist with keeping your loved one safe, engaged, and cared for while you work, run errands, or take self care time during the day. Most of these centers offer meals, medication administration, life enrichment, and transportation to outings or back home.
- If you feel comfortable, join a caregiver support group. This can be done in person or virtually to help ease stress and get support from others on the caregiving journey.
It’s imperative to your well-being to build a support safety net for yourself. You can’t be a caregiver alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with caregiver burnout, contact us today. Our team of compassionate professionals are here to help.
Cleveland Clinic Medical. “Caregiver Burnout.” Cleveland Clinic, 16 Aug. 2023, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9225-caregiver-burnout#management-and-treatment.