Work furloughs sparked by the coronavirus pandemic have made it possible for more family members to provide in-home care to their senior loved ones. While this can be very rewarding, the responsibility—particularly during this crisis period—can quickly cause damaging stress for the caregiver.
This is especially true for those in the sandwich generation – middle-aged adults caring for an aging parent while raising their own children. Essentially, these adult daughters and sons have been doing double-duty as caregivers since they also have young children at home with schools being closed. Some in the sandwich generation are actively employed but working from home—adding another important responsibility to juggle.
Constant worry over a loved one’s needs—along with the added stress and pressures of managing daily life in this unprecedented time—can cause you to forget about your own needs. They might be eclipsed by new concerns like keeping a loved one who is immunocompromised healthy, navigating changes to the daily routine, and losing any extra support that was relied upon.
Without proper support and management, the stress of a family caregiver’s responsibilities can ultimately lead to burnout. You may reached caregiver burnout if:
You seem to be on a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute you are in good spirits, but then something minor causes you to become irritable, impatient, overwhelmed, or angry. While it’s natural to experience frustration over your caregiving responsibilities, serious problems like anxiety or depression need medical attention.
Your to-do list is too long. This adds feelings of helplessness to your string of emotions. With your loved one’s care needs being a top priority, there seems to be little time left to get any other tasks done, let alone take care of your own needs.
The demands are taking a toll on your health. When you’re under great stress, your immune system starts to suffer. You constantly feel exhausted. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and no time to exercise will have you getting sick more often and staying sick longer. Not to mention your lack of time that prevents you from making a visit to the doctor.
You can’t remember the last time you had a break. Between caring for your senior loved one, your children, your career, and any other obligations, there’s no time or energy left to take care of yourself. With so many things on your plate, your relationships with family and friends become neglected and often suffer, leaving you feeling guilty.
You feel like you’re in it alone. The caregiving responsibilities may fall on you because you’re the only family nearby. If there are others available, without an established care plan and delegated tasks for everyone involved, you can easily become the go-to caregiver. Even those with good intentions may never know you need help unless you reach out.
You no longer find satisfaction in caregiving. You find yourself becoming more impatient and irritable toward the loved one you’re caring for. It’s hard for you to keep helping someone who cannot show any gratitude or appreciation for your efforts, especially those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. You start to resent the person and your choice to revolve your life around caring for them.
How Can You Avoid Caregiver Burnout?
If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms listed above, you’ve probably also felt guilty about having them. However, it’s crucial to remember that you cannot provide quality care for your loved one if you aren’t also taking care of yourself.
Focus on keeping yourself mentally and physically healthy. Talk about your feelings and be open with loved ones. Let your doctor or other health professional know you may need support as a caregiver and follow their instructions for staying well. Eat healthy, balanced meals and try to keep a regular sleep schedule.
Exercise can also make a world of difference. Even a short, 10–minute walk can boost your mood, relieve stress, and help you sleep better. Working outside in the garden or playing outdoors with your children offers the same benefits.
Find opportunities to relax. Take advantage of spare moments to read, work on a hobby, listen to music, meditate, play a game online, or video chat with friends. Taking time for yourself will help you recharge to take on all your responsibilities.
Remember, you can’t do everything! Keep a list handy so that when family and friends ask how they can help, you can give them a specific task to take care of. Prioritize your to-do list to eliminate the stress you feel when not getting everything done. While it may be difficult at times, try to avoid having a pity party, and instead applaud yourself. The work you are doing does make a difference, even when you don’t feel appreciated.
In many cases, it may be best to reach out for professional help. An in-home caregiver from Amada Senior Care will allow an aging senior to remain in a familiar environment in the adult child’s home, or to age in place in their own home. If you are having difficulty with heightened anxiety or uncertain about what assistance a loved one might require, please call us at 877-442-6232 or send us an email at info@AmadaSeniorCare.com.
By relieving the stress of meeting a senior’s caregiving needs, you can avoid caregiver burnout and better focus on your own needs and the needs of other family members. Knowing your loved one is being taken care of will also give you peace of mind.
“What to Do About Caregiver Burnout During Covid-19,” by Taylor French and Michelle Flores, Amada Blog contributors.