While serving largely behind the scenes, America’s healthcare system relies on over 50 million unpaid, or “informal”, caregivers every year. Most of those informal caregivers assist aging-in-place relatives with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, toileting or feeding. And although serving as a family caregiver is highly rewarding, many ultimately experience stress, fatigue and even full-blown caregiver burnout. If you are a primary family caregiver, as your loved one’s needs change it may become necessary to ask for support.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress
As a primary caregiver feeling powerless and frustrated is not unusual. There are days when it seems like no matter how hard you try your loved one’s condition keeps getting worse. As the aging process continues you start investing more and more time into their care. Before you know it, those additional responsibilities have triggered caregiver stress.
Here are some classic warning signs of caregiver stress:
- Feeling tired to the point of exhaustion
- Trouble sleeping
- Level of anxiety increases
- Constantly feeling worried or overwhelmed
- Disinterest in activities once enjoyed
- Not exercising enough
- Rapid weight loss or gain
As personal relationships begin to suffer many overwhelmed family caregivers turn to alcohol and other substances to take the edge off. Sadly, the ensuing dependency oftentimes makes a bad situation even worse.
How to Delegate Caregiving Responsibilities
In most families, a parent or grandparent’s primary caregiving responsibilities fall upon the shoulders of the eldest daughter. But caregiving isn’t a one-person job. If you currently find yourself not only being the primary but the sole family caregiver, here’s how to “rally the troops” around you:
Hold a family meeting
In most situations where one adult child is caring for an elderly parent, the other siblings assume that everything is OK. If you’ve been taking care of mom or dad all by yourself for a while, schedule a family meeting during which you respectfully ask the others to pitch in.
Calmly discuss how to divide up the responsibilities based on the time and talents of each care team member- like preparing meals or transporting mom to doctor appointments. Also ask everyone to report any upcoming care need changes based on what they’ve observed.