Anyone who is in the position of caring for an older family member faces special challenges. No matter how much you love the individual, you, the caregiver, can experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. We call it “caregiver burnout.” It’s a situation where a person, one with all the best intentions, is simply juggling too many balls and, as a result, is dealing with negative symptoms from handling more than he or she is able.
Common indications of caregiver burnout include:
Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
Irritability, anxiety and/or depression
Increase in unhealthy habits like overeating, smoking or drinking alcohol
Feelings of resentment or helplessness
Inability to find “time for yourself”
Getting sick more often
Loss of interest in normal activities
Your Health Counts, Too
Sometimes steps as simple as reading a funny book or watching a good movie can temporarily lift your mood. Exercising, staying on top of medical visits, eating as healthily as possible and practicing relaxation techniques can also help in the longer-term. And online support groups may provide ways of sharing concerns and letting off steam.
Respite care is the general term we use for relief that is provided by nursing assistance, household help, or outside companionship. Taking a break may be the best thing you can do for yourself (and your loved one). Given the current pandemic, you will want to ask a lot of questions of the agency you are considering. Make sure they are taking all measures to employ heightened infection control. You then take a much-needed break—for a few hours, a weekend or longer—content knowing your loved one is in safe hands.
Asking for Help
Don’t let caregiving stress leave you feeling burned out. Being receptive to some form of safe help can allow you to recharge in order to once again be able to address the needs of your loved one. Remember: the individual in your care deserves to see the best version of yourself, which means avoiding “caregiver burnout” can help both of you.