As baby boomers age, more and more need help from a caregiver. Often this responsibility falls to their children, but other relatives and friends may also find themselves in the role of caregiver. According to the aginginplace.org article, “Caregiver Burnout,” during the past five years more than 40 million caregivers spent 37 billion hours caring for someone they love, with almost half experiencing problems when it comes to balancing work, family and caregiving. As a result, about 75% of caregivers experienced stress associated with caregiving. Before caregiving takes a toll, however, take a look at ways to understand caregiver stress and avoid burnout.
Signs of caregiver burnout
It’s a term that is thrown around a lot, but caregiver burnout is very real. According to the Cleveland Clinic article, “Caregiver Burnout,” is exactly what it sounds like – “a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.” In short, caregivers become overwhelmed by all their responsibilities and suffer the consequences of caregiver stress. Among the many signs to look for are anxiety and depression, problems sleeping, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, getting sick more often, loss of interest in things once enjoyed, and withdrawal from other loved ones. When these symptoms occur it’s time to step back and reassess the situation and employ some of the tools experts recommend.
#1 – Don’t go it alone
Even when it may seem like there is no one else who can do the job as well as you can, it’s smart to seek help right from the start to avoid caregiver stress down the road. Start with other family members who can commit to a day or a few hours on a regular schedule so you know you have time for yourself. Also look into local resources for your loved one like senior centers with day programs, some of which provide transportation and meals as well as engaging activities and social opportunities.
Next consider caregiver resources like local support groups, training for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or other debilitating conditions, and when necessary hiring skilled caregivers to fill in when a break is needed. Another excellent option to relieve caregiver stress is respite care, which is especially helpful for longer breaks like family vacations and work-related trips away from home. For more about how respite care can help, check out our blog, “When Respite Care is the Perfect Solution.”
#2 – Practice self-care
One thing caregivers often forget is that if they don’t take care of themselves, they eventually can’t be a good caregiver. Like flight attendants always say, in the event of a loss of cabin air pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first before helping someone else. Since caregiving is often a long-term commitment, so too should be your commitment to self-care to avoid caregiver stress and its repercussions.
It may be a little difficult to put yourself first, but making time for regular exercise, socialization with friends, eating well and regularly, and trying tactics like meditation or deep relaxation, will not only help you feel good but to be a better caregiver. Find out more tips for self-care in the health.harvard.edu blog, “Self-care for the caregiver.”
#3 – Don’t stop doing what you love
Becoming a caregiver doesn’t mean giving up all the pastimes you love. In fact, doing so can sometimes increase stress if you feel unfulfilled or deprived because of the time you spend caregiving. Although caregiving may mean less time for personal pursuits, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy life and even combine the two. For example, listen to the music you love with your loved one, or cook up something wonderful together and share it with friends. Even outdoor hobbies like gardening, birdwatching and walking can be enjoyed with a senior along.
For those who enjoy sports or other activities that aren’t necessarily senior-friendly, try to schedule time for them when help is available so you can participate worry-free. For more ideas, the caregiveroc.org article, “50 Pleasurable Activities for Caregivers” is a great resource.
#4 – Consider senior living
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, life happens and it’s time to consider alternatives and one of the best is a move to assisted living or memory care. Modern luxury senior living communities like Ganton’s Countryside provide all the care as well as amenities, activities and events that help seniors enjoy an independent and carefree lifestyle without the worries of caregiver stress. For more information about Countryside, please call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.