Don't let stress overshadow the joys of caregiving. Know the symptoms of burnout and how to avoid them.
Every caregiving experience is different when providing day-in, day-out care for an aging parent. One common denominator among a growing percentage of caregivers is the potential for paralyzing stress. Caring for a loved one is very fulfilling when it's done correctly, but you can quickly get overwhelmed if you don't pay attention to the signs.
Know the Warning Signs The Mayo Clinic identifies common symptoms associated with caregiver overload:
- Feeling tired and a general lack of energy
- Sleep issues - too much or not enough
- Dramatic change in weight
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Experiencing aches, pains or frequent headaches
- Feeling worried or overwhelmed constantly
- Alcohol, drug or prescription medication overuse
If you experience these symptoms during your daily routine you may be dangerously close to a common condition called "caregiver burnout." It's exactly what it sounds like: The inability to continue functioning effectively due to the stress of taking care of someone else every day. Ignoring these signs often results in negative long-term health impact. Take Advantage of Available Resources Here are a few simple suggestions to help battle burnout and get your self back on a healthier track.
- Ask a grandchild to spend an evening with their grandparent. Not only will this give you free time, it's also a great and valuable learning experience for the teen.
- Grocery shop online. Many stores offer delivery or curb-side pick-up. Purchase items for your own household as well, to save time and effort.
- Try prescription delivery or mail order services. Scheduling a recurring delivery is one less thing to remember. Have the deliveries sent to your home.
- Consider home modifications. Many companies specialize in senior-friendly alterations. Modifying the bathroom to allow mom to bathe herself safely might be worth the investment (for your health).
- Contract with a meal delivery service once or twice a week.
- Adult care centers and programs often offer transportation.
- Take time off. Almost 60 percent of caregivers hold a job outside of the home. The Family Medical Leave Act allows people to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. It may be beneficial to begin researching Retirement or Assisted Living Communities during this time.
- Hire a teen from the local youth group or high school to run errands.
- If you have siblings who haven't committed to help, read our article "Getting Help from Siblings" for advice.
- Prepare a task list of things you need help with. When someone asks what they can do, you can offer them several choices.
A healthy take on caregiving involves balance. To be successful you must take time for yourself. Make it a priority so you can provide the best care possible for your parent.