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Caring for a loved one isn’t easy. Not only are you making sure your parent(s) are cared for, but you’re also juggling your job, immediate family, social life, and more. If you’ve been taking care of your senior for a while and notice that you feel “off” while tending to their needs, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, in 2015 an estimated 43.5 million American adults were unpaid caregivers. About 85% of those were caregivers for someone related to them, and about half cared for a parent.
Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Caregiver burnout arises while caring for others, often at the expense of your own health.
It’s typical to find that you may be making more decisions than usual. You could now be managing the finances for yourself or your family and you’re senior. You could also be assisting them with their activities of daily living (cooking, bathing, dressing). The repetitiveness of these activities can lead to mental exhaustion.
Healthline writes, “Symptoms of mental exhaustion can vary from person to person and often begin to show gradually, creeping up on you during periods of extreme stress. If stress continues to weigh on you, you may reach a point when you feel as though you’re in a dark hole and can’t see your way out.”
Along with mental exhaustion, physical exhaustion can appear as extreme fatigue—to the point where you feel physically drained and are unable to complete the tasks that you easily could do previously.
Have you noticed that you’ve been lashing out at people, even when they haven’t done anything wrong? You may have reached your maximum capacity for stress. As stated by Mayo Clinic, “Stress may leave you with a short temper. When you’re under pressure, you may find yourself arguing with co-workers, friends or loved ones—sometimes with little provocation or about things that have nothing to do with your stressful situation.”
The other side of lashing out is having crying spells over something that’s considered small—like forgetting to purchase a grocery item at the supermarket.
Before you started caring for your loved one, did you have commitments to yourself that you never broke? For instance, maybe you went to the gym every day after work for 30 minutes to relieve tension, or visited the salon every third Saturday of the month for a haircut and relaxation. Those activities may not have seemed like a big deal, but they actually are because these are the moments when you’re taking care of yourself.
When you are responsible for caring for another person, it’s common to channel all of your energy to your loved one. By not participating in the activities or errands that bring you joy, you’re more susceptible to physical or mental affliction.
Health problems. If you find yourself getting sick more than you did previously or you have a cold that won’t quite go away, it could be because of burnout. Whenever our bodies are in a constant state of pressure, it’s common for immune systems to become suppressed.
After caring for your loved one, you may find that you need time to gather yourself and collect your thoughts—this is important. But if you’re neglecting social interaction entirely, whether it’s with your family, friends, or colleagues, it could be an indicator that something bigger is happening. As mentioned by Family Caregiver Alliance, “Even the slightest feeling of being alone in your journey as a caregiver can have a significant impact on your overall well-being; making you less able to focus on work, family and responsibilities outside of your care recipient.”
When caring for a loved one, feelings of loneliness often can arise because there is a misconception that no one understands what you’re going through; yet there are other individuals who are in the same position you are. Try joining caregiver support groups or connecting with organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association to connect with others. However, if at any point you feel what could be considered symptoms of anxiety or depression, please seek a mental health practitioner.
Respite care provides temporary relief for caregivers and can be for as short of a time as you need, such as a few hours or several weeks. The ARCH National Respite Locator Service can help you find local services.
Senior living is a viable option if you find that you’re continuing to struggle to take care of your loved one. With around-the-clock care provided by supportive associates, nutritious meals, and engaging activities, you’ll find peace of mind knowing that your loved one is in a safe environment.
If you have any questions about the senior living journey, or are struggling to care for your loved one, we’re here to help. Chat with one of our care consultants today.
Please note: This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a trained medical professional with any medical-related questions.
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