Caring for an aging parent, spouse, or family member is an act of love. Even though you care for this person deeply, you may find that you don’t feel quite yourself as time goes on. It’s not uncommon to feel tired, stressed, or even anxious.
If this describes you, you’re not alone. A recent study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College shows that 10% of adults aged 60 to 69 whose parents are still living serve as their caregivers.
Many of these caregivers are balancing the demanding, delicate acts of caring for growing children, a full-time job, and their aging parents. The “sandwich generation” is a term that was coined to describe caregivers in these dual roles.
Caregiving spouses also feel the strain. Many report feeling isolated from friends and feel tremendous guilt about their own unmet needs.
Whatever your unique situation, it’s clear that caregiver burnout is something that needs our attention. With some 34 million Americans providing a weekly average of 24 hours of unpaid caregiving assistance for a family member, you’ll see evidence of it just about everywhere.
What Does Caregiver Burnout Look Like?
The symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to the symptoms of stress and depression. You may notice these signs in a loved one or in yourself.
Signs of caregiver burnout include:
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones.
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless.
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Getting sick more often.
- Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring.
- Emotional and physical exhaustion.
What to Do About Caregiver Burnout
While we can’t totally eliminate stress from our lives there are things we can do to help prevent caregiver burnout.
Take Care of Yourself
As a caregiver, self-care is essential. Time away from caregiving, to focus on just you, is an absolute necessity.
Remember to make time to do simple things like walk your dog, grab coffee with a friend, or read in bed.
If that feels impossible, it’s a tell-tell sign that your loved one needs additional support.
Support can come in many forms, including:
- Respite care
- In-home care
- Senior living communities
Join a Support Group
Knowing you are not alone and that your feelings are valid can make all the difference in the amount of stress you feel.
Consider joining a support group with other caregivers. If your parent or loved one has a specific health condition, such as dementia, consider looking for groups with members who are coping with the disease.
Joining a support group is a great way to relate to other caregivers and find resources that can help ease the stress and prevent burnout.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Have an honest conversation with a partner or loved one. Let go of any guilt and instead try to be as objective as possible:
- Can you continue to handle being a sole caregiver to elderly parents?
- Will you be able to provide the care they need while balancing your career, family, and other responsibilities?
- Is the amount of care and attention you are giving sustainable?
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
When caring for loved ones, it’s easy to think we can do it all. However, asking for help is essential and in no way failure.
Unfortunately, caregivers can neglect themselves by putting the needs of their loved one above their own.
Asking for help may look like:
- Reaching out to family members and asking for assistance. Can one family member take care of the financial aspects of caregiving while you focus on physically caring for them?
- Accepting help when it’s offered. Let people in your community support you. If a family member offers to bring dinner, accept the generous offer and use that time to recharge.
- Considering respite or long-term care. If you’re jeopardizing your own (or your loved one’s) health and well-being by carrying too much of a load, know that there are resources available.
Senior Living and Caregiver Support
Senior living communities offer an incredible support system for both residents and their families. At Senior Star, we know how important it is for adult children and family members to feel engaged in their loved one’s life and care. We want to partner with you to ensure that both you and your loved one’s needs are being met.
We believe that communication is one of the best ways for families to stay connected and engaged.
It’s easy to stay up to date with what’s happening in your loved one’s community when you download the Sagely: Family 2.0 App. The family app provides real-time activity updates, photos & community messages on your smartphone or tablet. Residents have their own app where they review the community calendar, RSVP to activities and receive community messages.
We always want to keep the lines of communication open. Have a question? Don’t hesitate to give your location a call – we are here to help.
Senior Star communities offer a plethora of things to do when you visit. Each community has its own monthly calendar filled with activities, events, and Signature Programs. In many cases, friends and family are welcome to participate alongside residents. Staff can also help reserve a room for a family gathering or make recommendations on the best ways to spend time with a person living with dementia.
We know how important family relationships are for the well-being of our residents. We want to honor your role as a caregiver and give you the support you need.
Interested in learning more? The Caregiver’s Journey eBook is a resource designed to walk with you as you navigate the challenges and crossroads of caring for your aging parent or loved one.
Our guide was developed to provide support for caregivers and help you discover the joy, hope, and peace of mind that can be found along the way.
Schedule a virtual or in-person tour to meet our team and learn more about the engaging and purpose-filled life your loved one can enjoy at a Senior Star community.
Contact us to learn more.