Although caring for an aging in place elderly loved one is highly rewarding, trying to balance caregiving with a household and job can be emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. As a result, many informal caregivers eventually go through periods of anxiety, depression, fatigue and stress, and some even experience a clinical condition known as “caregiver burnout”.
If you are currently caring for an independent senior, here are several proven ways to help ensure that caregiver burnout doesn’t sneak up on you.
What Causes Caregiver Burnout?
Many caregivers spend so much time focusing on their loved one’s health that they neglect their own. But the physical, emotional and spiritual demands that are placed on a caregiver can be overwhelming, which leads to feelings of hopelessness, lack of control and, ultimately, burnout. Unrealistic expectations and feelings of guilt are common, and many caregivers also end up in debt because they spend so much of their own money on caregiving expenses like food, medical supplies and home modifications.
Are You Getting Burned Out?
Serving as an informal caregiver can oftentimes seem like a full-time job, and many family caregivers who get burned out don’t even realize it until it’s too late. To ensure that doesn’t happen to you, look for these classic signs:
- Feeling anxious, depressed, hopeless, helpless and irritable
- Getting sick frequently
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Avoiding friends and family members
- Feeling emotionally and physically exhausted
- Abusing alcohol and drugs
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Wanting to harm yourself or the one you’re caring for
If you allow these problems to persist, it will eventually place the health and wellbeing of both you and your care recipient at risk.
How Can I Avoid Caregiver Burnout?
There are several reliable ways to protect yourself from caregiver burnout, including:
Set Realistic Goals
Accept the fact that no matter how hard you try, your loved one’s condition is probably going to get worse. There’s only one of you, so set realistic goals with an emphasis on how to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Celebrate small victories along the way, like getting mom to eat all her food or when dad joins you for a walk at the park.
Take Care of Yourself
Make sure to set aside time each week to take care of yourself. That might mean:
- Exercising at the local gym
- Going on a date with your spouse
- Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day
- Planning a weekend getaway with the family
- Eating nutritious meals over fast food
- Having lunch with your best friend
It’s also important to get a complete physical every year from your doctor.
Join a Support Group
If your loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic illness like Alzheimer’s or cancer, learn as much as you can about it. Then, tailor your care plan based on realistic expectations which in turn will maintain your senior’s quality of life as the condition progresses. Join a caregiver support group so that you can share your experiences and learn from others who are faced with the same challenges.
Express Your Feelings
In addition to fellow support group members, it may be beneficial to express your feelings to a:
- Trained therapist or social worker
- Religious leader
- Close friend, coworker or family member
Find a Respite Caregiver
Another option you have is finding a temporary, or “respite”, caregiver to fill in until you feel physically and mentally recharged again. This could be anyone from a trustworthy family member or neighbor, to seeking professional assistance through an adult daycare center or licensed home care agency. Whichever route you take, make sure to carefully screen the potential caregiver first, and that their personality meshes well with that of your senior.
Compassionate Respite Care for Seniors in Massachusetts
Caring for an aging in place senior is highly rewarding, but it can also be physically and emotionally draining. Avoid caregiver burnout by placing your trust in a professional respite caregiver from Family Services of Central Massachusetts. Our experienced, compassionate caregivers use a proven approach to care for seniors so they can keep aging independently in place right where they want to be. Our reliable in-home services include light housekeeping, personal care, meals, grocery shopping, laundry, prescription pickups and escorted transportation.
And, the entire FSCM family uses an independence-focused, cost-effective home care process that’s built upon attention to detail and expertise. To learn more about Family Services of Central Massachusetts today, please visit us at: www.fscm.org!