Providing senior care for an elderly parent is rewarding, but, given enough time, it can also be draining. The stresses of making sure that Mom or Dad is safe, takes the proper medications, gets to doctor's appointments, and eats properly day after day can wear you out.
Are You Facing Burnout?
It can be very easy to become burned out without even realizing it—especially when you are the only person providing care for your elderly loved one. The stresses of life mount up quickly. Not only do you have physical demands on your time and energy, but you also have to deal with the emotional fallout of watching someone you love decline physically and sometimes mentally, too.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, burnout may be on the horizon:
You have lost interest in your normal activities and hobbies.
You have withdrawn from friends and family members.
You experience feelings of hopelessness and irritability.
You experience changes in your eating patterns, perhaps losing or gaining weight.
You are more prone to illnesses than you used to be.
You have a hard time sleeping, or you want to sleep all of the time.
You experience irrational anger, or sometimes you feel the desire to hurt yourself or the person you are caring for.
Burnout is nothing to be ashamed of. The stresses of being a full-time caregiver for an elderly parent, while also trying to take care of your own home, immediate family members, and maybe even a full- or part-time job, can frustrate anyone. It is okay to admit that you are dealing with burnout and to seek help. If you feel like you are stressed or anxious, here are five ways you can beat the burnout.
1. Seek the advice of others.
You don’t have to make all of the decisions about senior care on your own. Even if your friends and family members don’t have any wise words of advice for your situation, simply having someone with whom you can talk over decisions can lift some of the burden off of your shoulders.
It’s also helpful to have someone remind you of the realities of your elderly relative's medical situation. When a parent with dementia is rude or insulting to you, for example, a trusted friend can tell you, "It's just the disease talking. You know your Mom really does love you."
2. Make self-care a priority.
It’s not selfish to make personal tasks like eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep a priority in your life. You won’t be able to make wise decisions when you’re exhausted and your physical body is suffering. Additionally, when you don’t get adequate rest and down time, you’re more likely to get sick. This means that you will be unavailable to care for your loved one while you are recovering.
3. Make time for fun on a regular basis.
The life of a caregiver is stressful, and you need to make time in your schedule for you to pursue a fun activity that helps you unwind on a regular basis. Even just an hour or two each week can refresh your mind and help you remember that there is more to life than repetitive tasks.
Whatever you have to do—hire a sitter, bring other family members on board, or pay for a senior "day care" service—make sure that you have some time to relax each week.
4. Educate yourself.
Take the time to educate yourself about the health issues that your loved one is facing. Use reputable websites, ask doctors for book recommendations, and talk to social workers to fully understand the implications of things like Alzheimer's, cancer, Parkinson's disease, or other senior health problems.
5. Join a support group.
Elder care support groups can give you a good place to unload your stress each week. People who attend these meetings are in the trenches themselves. They understand the stress and frustration that being a full time caregiver can cause. You’ll also be able to network at the meetings and get recommendations for sitters, geriatric providers, and other essential services.
Senior care can be demanding. You need to be aware of burnout and try to prevent it. Your elderly loved one's care plan depends on your ability to manage the stress, so make managing burnout a priority.