Millions of Americans every year serve as caregivers for aging in place loved ones. Although caregiving is highly rewarding, it also takes a lot of time and energy. Caregiver stress, fatigue, and even full-blown caregiver burnout are possible; all of which can have a negative effect on a caregiver’s health, wellbeing and relationships. If you’re currently serving as a caregiver for an elderly loved one, there are several warning signs you need to watch for that will let you know when it’s time to take a caregiving break.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Fatigue
It’s common for a caregiver to feel powerless and frustrated when no matter how hard they try, the condition of their loved one just seems to get worse. As a result, they invest more and more time and effort into their caregiving duties until it reaches the point they’re completely worn down. Once caregiver fatigue sets in it can have a detrimental effect on job performance and relationships, including those with kids and a spouse. Here are some of the major warning signs of caregiver fatigue:
- Sleep loss or sleeping too much
- Anxiety and depression
- Feeling mentally and physically tired all the time
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Disinterest in activities and relationships they once enjoyed
- Abuse of alcohol and drugs, including prescription medications
- Constantly feeling worried or overwhelmed
- Developing persistent physical problems of their own like headaches or body pain
If you’re a caregiver who’s currently experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to step away from your caregiving responsibilities for a while to get recharged and refreshed.
Where to Find Caregiver Relief
When you’ve finally decided to take a break, there are several reliable ways to ensure that your loved one will still get the care they need, including these:
Recruit Family Members
If you’ve been taking care of your parent(s) by yourself, call up your siblings and ask them to fill in for a while. In many families the oldest daughter takes care of mom or dad, and the other siblings just assume that everything is okay. You can also recruit your teenaged kids to help take care of grandma or grandpa, while letting them know how much it means to you.
Adult Day Services Centers
For a fee, these centers cater to seniors and are a great place for social activities, meals and light care assistance on a daily or weekly basis.
Respite Care Programs
Many communities offer programs and services specifically designed to give caregivers a break. Those can be found through the ARCH National Respite Network Locator (www.archrespite.org), The Family Care Navigator operated by the Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org), or your local area’s chapter for the Agency on Aging (www.eldercare.gov).
Providing nutritious meals for a senior takes a lot of time and effort. There are several meal services that will deliver right to your loved one’s home, including Meals on Wheels (www.mowaa.or