Saturday, November 20, 2010

Caregiver Burnout: When You've Lost That Loving Feeling

At this time of year we all seem to be burning the candle at both ends. Life is so busy! And now there's Thanksgiving and Christmas to get ready for! If you are also a caregiver to an aging parent, you're probably feeling more than the usual state of anxiety.

But, please oh please...slow down and take a deep breath. I mean that. You have to. For yourself, okay?

What is a "caregiver"? Someone who is involved in helping someone else manage to carry out the tasks of living. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? For the caregiver, it is anything but easy or simple.

Let's be honest. Being a caregiver is a tough job. Being a caregiver to aging parents is even tougher. Not that we don't love our parents. Of course we do, or trust me, we would not undertake the caregiver role.

It's stressful because of a lifetime of family dynamics. The emotions and memories, happy or sad, have a way of coming to the surface when least expected.

Who knew that providing TLC to loved ones could be this stressful? How stressful is it? Well, caregivers are at an increased risk of depression and burnout.

Symptoms of both tend to mimic each other. One contributes to the other. Sort of the age-old puzzle..."Which comes first? The chicken or the egg?"

~~~Signs of Caregiver Burnout~~~

self criticism
trouble at work
trouble in relationships
substance abuse
feeling overwhelmed
apathy for usual activities

~~~Things To Do For You~~~

always talk with your doctor
vent to support network
speak with therapist
call local senior service organizations
utilize programs to assist caregivers
join support groups
arrange "home care" visitors
get respite care
do not neglect nutrition
try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night
take time to do something you enjoy
you must find humor in everyday events

Of course, each caregiver's situation is unique. Some may be handling the responsibilities from thousands of miles away. Coordinating and managing elder care over the phone and making visits. Some live near enough to try to run two households.

And, others have one or both aging parents residing with them. Whichever caregiver role you are in charge of, you have to take care of yourself. And I know it's way easier for someone to offer well-meaning advice than it is to carry out.

But you have to try. Depression and burnout are serious conditions. How sad and unfair to have this happen to you when you are trying to make the last years of an aging parent as pleasant as possible.