Loved ones who suffer from a long-term decline of health benefit from the services of a trusted caregiver. Caregiving can span anywhere from months to years to decades. Over the long-term, the stress of caring for a loved one in addition to supporting one’s own family and children can take an enormous toll on the well-being of the caregiver, leading to stress and burnout.
Providing consistent support to an aging loved one is incredibly satisfying. Giving yourself much-needed breaks are just as essential. Caregivers who experience stress levels that remain unchecked week after week are likely to eventually lose the ability to effectively manage the care of their loved one. Not only will the family member in your care feel the repercussions, but you will too. It’s important to be mindful of your own health and welfare when taking on the additional responsibility of a caregiver.
Watch for symptoms of stress and burnout
Stress precedes burnout. Keep a watchful eye on your health. If you notice signs of stress, which can lead to eventual burnout, take steps right away. Here are some symptoms of stress in caregivers:
- Feelings of increasing resentment
- Failing to pursue leisure activities
- Consuming surplus amounts of alcohol, smoking more or eating too much
- Anxiety or depression
- Feeling worn and tired
- Overreacting to minor irritants
- Worsening health problems or new health conditions
Burnout symptoms differ from symptoms of stress. Here are common indications of burnout:
- Caregiving takes up the majority of your life, but leaves you with little satisfaction.
- You feel increasingly irritated and less patient with the one in your care.
- Helplessness and hopelessness overwhelm you.
- You are overcome with exhaustion, even though you rest and sleep.
- Your usual energy levels become depleted.
- You end up neglecting your own needs, because you’ve stopped paying attention or due to an inability to take the time to care for yourself.
If you experience stress or burnout symptoms, take immediate steps to resume your health. Even small steps are worthwhile. Remind yourself that every moment of care eases the pain of the one you love. There’s no need to pressure yourself into believing you are responsible for a cure. There may be no cure, but offering small comforts, hope and loving care are significant and beneficial.
Do yourself a favor: Feel appreciation
Caregiving may seem to come with little or no appreciation from the one cared for. This may be due to the one receiving care having an inability to express thanks and gratitude. In such instances, remind yourself of the difference you are making in the life of your loved one. Compose a list of how valuable your caregiving efforts are, and refer to this list when you feel discouraged.
Turn to supportive family members and friends for assurance in the difference you are making in the life of the one in your care. Acknowledgement of your efforts can serve as positive reinforcement, leading to feelings of appreciation and value for the service you are giving.
Develop support systems to ease stress
Doing it alone may not always be healthiest. Friends, family and community members are a call away when you are in need. Caregiving tasks can be divided up amongst family members. For instance, one family member may be in charge of food and medications, while another focuses on keeping finances and bills accounted for.
Establish regular check-ins with neighbors or church volunteers who will let others know about the health and condition of your loved one or coordinate with others within your family. When offered assistance, accept the help. Every bit of relief is welcome.
A part of many aging individuals’ healthcare program is short-term home care assistance. This type of temporary help is known as respite care. Several senior agencies offer respite care to prevent or effectively defuse caregiver stress and exhaustion. Home care assistance gives you a necessary break whenever the occasion arises. Home health aides arrive at your home to provide compassionate, non-medical care to your loved one either for a few hours a week or on a regular basis over a few months. Programs can be tailored to meet your needs and schedule.
Online support groups can help you gain perspective, find commonality and vent your worries. If your situation allows, community support groups will provide the same comfort to you as a caregiver.
Fulfill your needs regularly
When all the attention is devoted to a family member in need of constant care, it’s easy to lose yourself. Get in the habit of periodically giving yourself mini breaks from care, such as the following:
Maintain friendships to reinvigorate positive emotions and well-being. If you are unable to leave your loved one for a brief duration, invite friends over to your home for tea, lunch or just to catch up.
Engage in activities you enjoy, whether they include knitting, gardening or watching sports. Prioritize exercise, relaxation techniques, eating well and getting sufficient amounts of meaningful sleep. When you maintain your health, you are better positioned to tackle the responsibilities of caregiving.
When you feel special, your mood is boosted and you feel energized. Remember to pamper yourself on occasion with a luxurious bath or candlelit dinner.
Make it a point to get out of the house every now and then. Hire a respite caregiver or ask friends or family to watch your loved one for a brief spell. You’ll get a break from being in your home constantly.
Caregiving can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Just remember there are two individuals involved—you and the one in your care. The dual responsibility is taxing. But to successfully handle both, be sure to include your well-being in your lists of daily tasks to accomplish.
When you need outside help, don’t hesitate to reach out to a home healthcare agency for respite care. Trusted home health agencies like Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago are right in the neighborhood to lend a helping hand. Typically, our caregivers can be at your home within 48 hours of your initial call to provide support and care to your loved one. Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago serves families in the Hinsdale, IL community. Our non-medical services range from daily hygiene (i.e., grooming, bathing and dressing) to grocery shopping to pleasant companionship. Our screened respite caregivers are available and able to accommodate all the non-medical needs of your loved one.