What to Do if You’re Feeling Overwhelmed as a Caregiver
How to overcome caregiver burnout
Strategies for when you feel overwhelmed
If you’re the primary caregiver for one or both of your parents, you’re not alone. Researchers estimate that 20% of adults take on the responsibility of caring for aging parents at some point. Wanting to care for your loved one and give them the best care possible is a noble desire. After all, they raised and cared for you, so becoming their caretaker later in life feels like returning the favor. But just as parents need a break every once in a while, caretakers of aging parents also need breaks to help avoid the signs of caregiver burnout.
What is caregiver burnout?
When caring for aging parents, you’ll often have to make sacrifices — which means your own emotional and physical well-being may fall to the wayside. It can be hard to find the time or energy to participate in social activities or meet other family obligations. Ultimately, the stress of trying to be the primary caregiver to a loved one can lead to emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that can affect your own daily life and functioning. If you’ve been feeling depressed, irritable, anxious or exhausted, or if you’ve become socially withdrawn, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout.
Caregiver burnout prevention
Caring for elderly parents — especially when you must take on the challenge alone — can be draining. Learning how to care for aging parents and meet their unique needs can be time-consuming, and it places demands on you physically, mentally and emotionally. This makes caring for yourself even more important. Staying alert to the signs of caregiver burnout can help you avoid getting to the point of total exhaustion. Following are some tips to help you navigate this time in your life:
No one can do everything for everyone all the time. Give serious thought to what you’re willing and able to do, then set goals for yourself. If possible, enlist the help of other family members, either on an ongoing basis or for occasional assistance to give you a break.
Reach out for mental and emotional support.
From speaking to a counselor to joining a support group, there are a number of resources available to help sustain your mental and emotional well-being. Working one-on-one with a counselor can give you the space and time to work through your emotions. Support groups can provide a safe environment to discuss your caregiving journey with people who understand because they’re experiencing many of the same things. Sharing challenges as well as offering advice and support to each other can help you feel understood and empowered.
When you spend all your time worrying about and caring for the health of someone you love, taking your mind off of them and that responsibility may feel selfish. But caring for yourself is not selfish. It’s vital not only to your own health, but also to your ability to be there for them. Even small moments of self care — whether taking a relaxing bubble bath, going for a walk or making time for good nutrition — give you the opportunity to relax and recharge. This, in turn, can enable you to think with increased clarity and bring more energy to caregiving.
Bring in outside assistance.
While you may be the primary caregiver for your aging loved one, it’s ok to bring in outside assistance — especially if there are no other family members willing or able to help. Home aides can take some of the burden off your shoulders by taking on some of the daily caregiving tasks and household chores.
Look into online resources.
The U.S. Administration on Aging offers an Eldercare Locator that can connect you to a variety of resources such as support services, transportation, help with insurance and more. Your local Area Agency on Aging can also help you find low- or no-cost services your parent may be eligible for, including home health care visits, meal delivery and adult day programs.
Consider adult day programs.
Your aging parent may enjoy the opportunity to get a change of scenery and socialize with others their age. Adult day programs offer a variety of services and enriching programs and activities that help seniors engage with others. From arts and crafts, entertainment, meals and even some health care services, an adult day program can provide a welcome break for you and an enjoyable outing for your parent.
Schedule a respite stay.
A respite stay for your parent at a senior living community may provide just the break you need to practice some self-care and take care of other responsibilities. Stays are usually available for as little as a few days or for several weeks. During a respite stay, your parent will receive assistance with tasks such as bathing, dressing and taking medications, in a caring environment with round-the-clock support from trained healthcare providers. They’ll also enjoy social and wellness-focused activities, nutritious meals and interaction with others. And while your parent is experiencing the benefits of life at a senior living community, you’ll have peace of mind and the opportunity to get some much-needed rest.
Most of all, remember there’s no reason to feel guilty about taking time for yourself. When you pay attention to self-care and tend to your own needs, you’ll be a better caregiver for your parent and better able to manage all your responsibilities.
To learn how a respite stay at South Port Square can provide a welcome break and peace of mind for you while your parent receives high-quality professional care in an enriching environment, simply call us at 941-315-6079.