Providing care for an aging loved one, like an elderly parent, is a noble undertaking filled with countless hours of satisfaction, nurturing and joy. But on the flip-side, caregiving can be tiring and time-consuming to the point of affecting one’s health and wellbeing. In fact, many senior caregivers every year experience caregiver fatigue, a condition for some that eventually spirals into full-blown caregiver burnout. When providing care for another is beginning to become a burden rather than a labor-of-love, that vibrant smile on your face can begin to fade. And that’s simply not good for you or your aging loved one. To keep you staying refreshed with a positive smile on your face, use these caregiving tips from the pros.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
The first step in warding off caregiver burnout is recognizing its signs, including:
- Lack of energy and feeling tired throughout the day
- Trouble sleeping
- Mental and physical fatigue
- Strained personal relationships, including a spouse
- Withdrawing from activities you once enjoyed
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Frequent physical problems like headaches or body pain
- Abusing alcohol and/or drugs, including prescription medications
When one or more of these symptoms start to persist, it’s time to take a personal inventory to ensure your health and wellbeing.
Why am I Overloaded?
Identify the source, or sources, of your fatigue in addition to your caregiving workload. Are you taking on too much at your job? At home? There may be some additional emotional burdens that you are trying to shoulder from a coworker, friend or family member other than the person receiving your in-home care. Once you’ve identified what’s taxing your energy, develop a healthy action plan to reduce some of that extra stress. Take time to exercise, eat right and to schedule periodic medical checkups.
Know Your Limitations
In many instances when you’re providing care for an elderly person, no matter how hard you try their health eventually deteriorates. That can lead to a condition known as caregiver guilt, fueled by more and more effort on your part. All of us have limitations, and the aging process is just part of life. Accept what you can’t do, and instead focus on the caregiving that you can deliver. Keep in mind the value that caregiving brings to your loved one. Set attainable daily or weekly goals, and break up tasks into doable portions. Reward yourself periodically with some new clothes or a weekend get-away with your spouse.
Speak to Other Caregivers
As humans, we take comfort in discussing our trials with others who share the same ones in life. Those involved in caregiving are no exception. Stay connected with community caregiving support groups, notably when your loved one has a challenging health condition like dementia, Alzheimer’s or cancer. Hone your caregiving skills by taking a course through the Red Cross, Council on Aging, or your local hospital. Faith leaders, friends, and professional therapists are also great support resources to tap into, as they can help you stay grounded and refreshed. Avoid holding onto negative emotions as they can slowly wear you down.
Take a Well-Deserved Break
Find ways to lighten your caregiving workload by using these resources:
- Community support programs. Most cities and towns have senior adult care programs during the day to give you time off while keeping your loved one active and entertained. There are also community