Caregivers caring for their elderly loved ones can find it rewarding, but also extremely difficult, demanding and stressful. Senior caregivers must balance other responsibilities and make significant sacrifices to provide care. It is therefore important to be proactive in combatting burnout.
Senior caregivers can become isolated in carrying out their responsibilities. Their other relationships can suffer and other family members may become angry or resentful. They may face consequences professionally: losing job opportunities or even have to stop working entirely. All of these stresses can lead caregivers to feelings of anger, anxiety, guilt, frustration, exhaustion and a sense of overwhelming helplessness.
In order to avoid becoming burnt out and unable to sustain all caregiving responsibilities, senior caregivers may wish to employ the following strategies:
- Learn about and understand the senior’s health condition. Knowledge and understanding about their health will allow the caregiver to anticipate changes that might require adjustments to care and mentally prepare for significant deterioration.
- Allow the senior to be involved. As much as possible, the senior should be involved in decision making and problem solving. Senior caregivers should limit assistance to what is actually necessary.
- Do not take a senior’s behavior, anger, frustration or aggression personally. Often these are manifestations of dementia or other conditions the senior may have and are not something the senior really has direct control over, so taking them personally will only further complicate the situation.
- Ask for help. Delegate as much as possible to family members, friends or neighbors. Even if the help offered is not exactly what is needed, try not to criticize or it is unlikely the person will offer again.
- Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Taking care of one’s physical and mental health enables one to be a better caregiver for the long haul.
- Find a support system. Caregivers should discuss their feelings and frustrations about their caregiving experience with friends, a support group or a professional counselor.
- Make sure to investigate the senior’s financial and personal resources. There may be other resources that can assist with the care of the senior. Conversely, investigating resources early will avoid depleting all resources too quickly.
- Investigate other options. Community resources, senior day programs and in home care service providers can offer options for supplements to care by family members.
- Be at peace with decisions. If you decide that outside resources are needed in the form of professional home caregivers or eventually an assisted living facility, being at peace with that reality can help alleviate anxiety and stress. As long as all factors regarding what is best for both the senior and their caregivers are considered, the right decisions will be made. Do not hesitate to contact professionals and keep in touch with health care professionals in determining what is best and most appropriate for senior loved ones.
By employing the above strategies, senior caregivers can hope to minimize stress and anxiety and avoid a rapid burn-out that can jeopardize their ability to provide care for their loved one.