Are You Experiencing Burnout While Caring For Aging Parents?
Caregiver burnout occurs when a caregiver ignores their own well-being and begins to suffer themselves. A change in season is a great time to reflect and reset. To help you keep an eye out for symptoms of caregiver burnout, consider the questions below and try our tips to help deal with the emotional tolls of caregiving.
Take control of your health and wellness.
1) How is your physical health?
One common symptom of caregiver burnout is decline in a caregiver’s own physical well-being. Stress is a major symptom of caregiver burnout, and stress significantly weakens the immune system. If you’ve frequently been feeling under the weather or find yourself catching head cold after head cold, it may be time to assess your physical health. Introducing regular, moderate physical exercise into your routine is a great way to boost your immune system. Autumn is the perfect time to get outside and exercise, so in addition to getting enough sleep, take 30 minutes each day to go for a bike ride or even a brisk walk out in the fall weather. You can’t provide care to others if you’re not caring for yourself.
Resist the urge to withdrawal.
2) How often are you spending time with loved ones?
Overtime, many caregivers begin to withdraw from their loved ones when the mental and physical demands of family caregiving become more and more extreme. However, it’s critical to remember that friends and family are invaluable when it comes to coping with the emotional tolls of caregiver burnout. Being social is vital 1 even during low-stress times, and there is no shame in leaning on those close to you while you’re giving care.
3) Do you know caregivers who can relate to what you’re going through?
Though being around friends and family is a must, sometimes only other caregivers can truly understand and help you deal with the symptoms of caregiver burnout. If no one in your existing social circle has experience with caregiving, consider connecting with a caregiver support group. Caregivers can find great value in engaging with the eldercare community by sharing advice, stories, and affirmation. Most major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago have databases of local support groups, or you can always do a quick Google search or browse eldercare.gov to find a group near you. 3
Be realistic and fair with yourself.
4) What are your caregiving goals?
The setting of realistic goals is crucial in order to prevent caregiver burnout. Become familiar with the general trajectory of the illness you’re caring for, as well as future variables. Your own happiness is a function of expectation, so know what to expect. You can find more information on how to set goals using the National Caregivers Association’s goal setting tool. 2
5) Do you need a break?
Being a caregiver is a full-time job, and just like anybody else who works long hours, sometimes you need a vacation to regain your energy after caregiver burnout. Look into local respite care services and either find temporary caregiver replacement for yourself or locate a short-term assisted care facility. Go to a fall sporting event, take a day trip to the countryside, and find some time to reset so you can come back rested and be the best caregiver you can be.
Pay attention to your mental health.
6) Are you feeling hopeless, overwhelmingly sad, or even violent?
If the answer to any of these is yes, you should immediately seek help from a mental health professional as depression is a common indicator of caregiver burnout. Fall is a particularly good time to talk to someone, as the stresses of caregiving can worsen when combined with the potential risk for seasonal affective disorder that comes along with the winter months.4
7) How is your mental well-being?
It’s nearly impossible to avoid stress and anxiety while caregiving. There are certain types of yoga classes that focus on calming mental practices, and meditation has found to be extremely helpful as well. Meditation can help improve the physical, mental, and spiritual health of caregivers. Improved quality of sleep, faster recovery from stress, and stronger immunity are just a few of the many benefits of caregiving. If you’ve never tried to meditate before, download one of the many popular mediation apps like Headspace and Mindfulness. They are easy to use and can be a great way to prepare yourself for a demanding day or wind down from a stressful one.
8) Are you experiencing mood swings?
One of the emotional tolls associated with caregiver burnout is sudden shifts in emotion. In order to prevent caregiver burnout, be aware of the possibility of displaced anger or emotion. Are you really angry about the fact your spouse left dishes out, or are you taking out your completely understandable frustrations of your caregiving day on your partner’s small mistake? Acknowledging your feelings will help keep your other relationships and interactions as healthy as possible.
Maintain a healthy work-life balance.
9) Do you have a creative outlet?
After applying constant analytical and logical thought throughout caregiving, try engaging the right side of your brain for a little while. Journaling is both a creative and productive way to decompress after an exhausting day. Many caregivers experience a mix of shame and guilt when sharing their feelings, but journaling is a fantastic outlet in which caregivers can freely and privately explore their feelings. Photography, gardening, and painting are all creative ways to practice self expression while fostering feelings of healing and rejuvenation.
10) Are you having trouble balancing your role as family member and caregiver?
Finding a healthy work-life balance can be tough, especially if you are a caregiver. Many people who care for their aging parents experience the caregiver burnout symptom of “role confusion.” You’ve spent your entire life as a daughter or son to your parent, but now you’ve been thrust into this new position as caregiver, which can be confusing and disorienting. Diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s can further complicate this issue where your parent may sometimes not recognize you as a family member. Create mental boundaries so you can define a healthy balance of caregiver and family member to the person for whom you are providing care.
Make a point to reflect and self assess.
Caregiving is hard work, both emotionally and physically. Because of this, it’s important for caregivers to know their limits and take the necessary steps to manage the stress and anxiety that come with the job. This quiz was designed to help caregivers self-evaluate and quickly diagnose the symptoms of caregiver burnout. Continue to ask yourself the important questions in order to remain a top notch caregiver to your loved one, and, as importantly, avoid getting sick yourself.