At some point in our lives, we become caregivers for our senior parents or kids. The role of caregiving comes to many people in different ways. It often sneaks up slowly as a form of help to a senior mom or dad. Minor support with paying bills and driving to doctor’s appointments eventually becomes full-scale caregiving responsibility.
Caregiving is taxing. In a 2020 AARP report, almost 4 out of 10 caregivers said their caregiving situation was highly stressful. Due to overwhelming obligations, caregivers are at risk of burnout, stress, and mental health problems. Read on to know the true implications of caregiving.
The Impact of Caregiving on Health
Caregiving is one of the most stressful jobs out there. Even informal caregivers are not exempted from a host of associated psychological problems. Burnout, a common caregiving problem, is widely discussed today, seeing that the number of unpaid caregivers is escalating in response to the graying population.
In particular, one caregiver study found that 19% had burnout and 22.6% were at risk of it. Watch out for these signs to determine your risk for burnout. They will tell you when to take a step back from caregiving.
Common signs of burnout include:
- Constantly feeling tired and worried
- Not getting enough sleep
- Feeling sad and lonely
- Weight gain or loss
- Irritable and get angry easily
- Headaches and body pain
- Drug or alcohol abuse
8 Ways to Prevent Caregiver Stress and Burnout
Balance is key in managing caregiver concerns. Here’s a roundup of valuable tips to find balance in your multiple roles.
1. Don't be Reluctant to Ask for Help.
Caregiving is stressful if you do everything from morning until evening. If the person you care for requires constant support and supervision, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don't hesitate to ask for help from reliable people who can momentarily take over caregiving. Both you and your loved one will benefit from an extra helping hand.
2. Be Kind to Yourself.
Caregivers often blame themselves for situations that are out of their control. For example, they self-blame for not doing enough. Don't beat yourself up if you can't take your senior mom to their doctor's appointment because you have work obligations.
Understand that what you do is already a big help to your loved one, so you deserve to pat yourself on the back. They may fail to recognize or appreciate your contributions, but know that you’re doing your part well.
3. Set Your Priority.
Many family caregivers are also parents and career people. Add caregiving to their obligations, and the situation can become a nightmare if you don’t know how to find balance. Setting a priority can help manage your time and energy efficiently when you have multiple responsibilities. Moreover, do one task at a time. For instance, when helping a loved one in the shower, ensure that your spouse or another family member looks after the kids.
4. Attend Caregiving Training.
Getting caregiving training specific to your loved one's health concerns will arm you with experience. If they have memory impairment, dementia care training will help you understand and respond appropriately to significant behavioral and psychological changes. When you know the trajectory of dementia, you're less stressed about the future.
Locate caregiver resource centers near you and find out if they offer training for informal caregivers.
5. Join Support Groups
Whether it’s an online community or a support group near your area, connecting with fellow family caregivers benefits your mental health. You can openly share your caregiving experience, including your challenges and what care strategies have worked for you. You can also learn from their experiences. Sometimes, simply having people who understand your struggles can be your source of motivation to push through.
6. Stay Connected
Many family caregivers belong to the sandwich generation, juggling parental, work and care responsibilities. To do everything, they end up sacrificing their social life. As a carer, staying connected to people close to you is crucial. Meeting up with relatives and close friends occasionally over coffee or lunch makes you feel you have a life outside your home.
7. Get a Hobby
Try a new hobby or continue one that you have put off. Engaging in a meaningful hobby can stave off chronic stress and burnout. Some hobbies are stress relievers, like gardening, baking, and language learning.
Joining hobby clubs is even better. It’s hitting two birds with one stone—you can socialize and interact with others while doing something you love. You get to have fun with the extra benefit of social support from people with similar interests.
8. Prioritize Your Health
Above all, you should never neglect your own health. Taking up the role of a caregiver doesn’t mean self-care should slide down your priority list. It’s the exact opposite. Your senior loved one will depend on you to do the tasks they can’t do, so you need to be in excellent health.
Setting personal health goals, such as what to eat or how many times to exercise weekly, helps you keep track of your physical state of health. Getting adequate sleep is also a must.
Talk to a doctor to get personal health advice. You can also connect with a therapist to learn better strategies to manage stress or burnout and find balance in your life.
Caregiving Is a Fulfilling but Demanding Task
Many people have life-changing experiences as a caregiver. Despite being under constant mental woes, they find caring for other people fulfilling. Even if they’re not appreciated much for their work, the significance of their job allows them to maintain a positive outlook about supporting others.
Being a family caregiver brings out many positive emotions. You become more kind, understanding, patient, and compassionate to the point that you may overlook your own health. You should avoid putting your health on the back burner. As a carer, you owe it to your loved one to provide quality care which is only possible if you’re in your best state of health. If you can’t, hire a trained caregiver. Receiving others’ support ensures that you don’t overwork yourself.
Syed has years of experience dealing with people, understanding their needs, and helping them find solutions to their problems.
As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional (CMDCP), Syed is committed to working closely with Senior and their family knowing what is it like for individuals facing a challenging time, at times groping in dark trying to figure what is the appropriate next step or care level for their unique situation.
Syed and Senex Memory Advisors are fully committed to working closely with families in creating a personalized, step-by-step process memory care plan at zero cost.