As a family caregiver, you may come to a point when you have to hire in-home assistance. For some family caregivers, crossing this threshold can be filled with anxiety as it may mean having to convince a resistant loved one to accept help and/or figuring out which person/agency will be the best fit. For some family caregivers this process is more dreadful than convincing their loved one to accept assistance, because of "horror" stories they may have heard from others. "Horror” stories like caregivers who steal, don't show up and/or abuse their loved one. While such fear is understandable, the truth is family members can reduce the likelihood of hiring a “bad” caregiver by being proactive and starting the process of choosing someone before they are in desperate need.
Decide which route to pursue ~ Some family caregivers choose to hire a professional from a Licensed and Bonded home care agency. Such agencies are approved to provide a certain level of care and conduct background checks on their aides. Other family caregivers, however, decide to hire someone privately (not affiliated with an agency) who is highly recommended by friends/ trusted colleagues.. The key to making such a decision, if you have a choice, is to understand the pros and cons of each and to feel as secure as possible in your decision. For example, when hiring a caregiver through an agency, the agency is responsible for replacing your regular caregiver if he/she is unable to work. If you privately hire a caregiver, however, it means you can be left stranded if he/she calls out sick or has an emergency. The decision ultimately depends on the services available to you and your level of comfort with each option.
Make sure the person is trained and experienced~Upon deciding which route you are most comfortable with, make sure the caregiver you are seeking is trained and experienced; This is crucial to making sure your loved one is properly cared for. For example, if your loved one is cognitively impaired, it is important to have a caregiver who understands the nature of the impairment so as to interact with your loved one appropriately and effectively. This is especially important if your loved one is easily agitated or frustrated. Whether hiring from an agency or independently, it is essential to inquire about trainings, workshops and experiences the caregiver has had and to ask for documentation to verify such experience.
Ask for personal and professional references ~ This should especially be conducted if you are hiring someone independent of an agency. The more you know about a caregiver's work history and their personality, the better your chances of getting a responsible person and a suitable match. Make sure to follow up with all of their references so that you can hear about their qualifications first hand.
Interview your final candidate(s) ~ Interviewing a potential candidate, face-to-face, is important and, if possible, should be conducted with your loved one. A main part of having a successful relationship between your loved one and a caregiver is to see how their personalities match up. Believe it or not, there are cases where a trained professional caregiver has been hired by a family but for various reasons the person they are caring for does not like them and refuses to accept his/her assistance. This can leave you starting from scratch.
Check in frequently ~ Equally important as the aforementioned, is the task of checking-in frequently with both the caregiver and your loved one. Whether it is being done in-person or via phone, expressing your concern about your loved one's health, safety and daily routine can go a long way in showing the caregiver you are involved. During my work as an elder abuse specialist, most of the older adults who were abused by aides, either did not have any family expressing interest in their well-being or did not have any family at all.
While the above suggestions cannot guarantee a perfect match or ensure your loved one's safety, they can help in choosing a more appropriate caregiver for your given situation.
What approaches or tips would you share with someone who is looking for a caregiver? Please share your suggestions and recommendations below.
After posting a blog on the subject of managing Love and Caregiving, I was contacted by Samantha Stein, Online Content Manger for the Association for Long Term Care Planning, who expressed interest in sharing her recent article on my blog. Upon reading it, I thought it would be beneficial to share some of her tips on balancing marriage and caring for a parent. Below are the key points of her article. If you would like to read the full article, feel free to read it here.
Senior Care: Balancing Marriage and Caring for a Parent
By Samantha Stein
Caregiving can strengthen the bonds of relationships within the family. It can bridge gaps and heal decades-long conflicts through the connections that form during the care. However, it can also cause strains within the family. Caregivers may be put in a tough spot when the stress of their tasks takes its toll on their relationships and marriage. It may even reach a point where it feels like you have to make a choice between your partner and your aging parent. Understandably, no one wants to be put in a position such as that. But how can you avoid it? You can start by identifying the roots.
Frustration and Fatigue - Providing care to an aging loved one can be time-consuming and energy-draining. There will be days when you will feel as if everything is piling up and you will feel overwhelmed. It will feel like nothing is going right or as planned and you feel frustrated and exhausted by it all. When this happens, it can be too easy to turn to you partner and just release all those negative emotions on him or her. Frustration and fatigue, if not vented out the right way, can be the foundation of a very unhappy environment. It can cause friction in marriages and can damage relationships.
Lack of Intimacy - Intimacy is one of the key elements that strengthen relationships and marriages, and the lack of it can cause a severe blow. Individuals have shared that caregiving has had a negative impact on their sexual relationship. Caring for a parent, managing your household, and co-parenting your children can be difficult to manage. Add senior care to that, and it surely leaves little room for any sort of intimacy.
Financial Burden - Various articles, such as these posts by Investopedia and Shaw Family Law PC, cite financial strains and extended families among the top causes of divorce in the United States. When a parent ends up needing care, adult children often feel obligated to step up and provide the help that they need. It almost feels like second nature to many.
However, providing senior care, especially when the care recipient does not have long term care coverage, can put a significant dent on any couple’s finances. Care services in the country have become too expensive for many to afford. And if you and your partner are still in the process of saving for your retirement, then adding senior care costs can surely make the situation more challenging.
Addressing the Issues
Like any roadblock, these issues ought to be addressed together. These situations are exactly the right moments when communication between partners will be truly tested. It is important to be honest about concerns, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. It is also necessary to have an open mind when dealing with these instances as they can easily put a damper on your relationship.
Validate and Address Emotional and Mental Stress - Emotional and mental stress can come to both the caregiver and the spouse. And often, whoever experiences it feels as if these reactions are selfish. Bear in mind that having these feelings and going through these struggles do not make you less of a partner or a person. Whatever your role is in the equation, these emotions are real issues that need to be addressed. Talk about it with your partner, and if necessary, seek professional help.
Prioritize Your Spouse - The caregiver and the spouse ought to find ways to show that they prioritize their partners, even if it means leaving them alone for a time. Often, some people need their space to recollect their thoughts and their bearings. Being there for your partner, especially when they are dealing with all that comes with caring for a loved one, could mean providing them with the space that they need to adjust to stresses on their own.
However, time together is also vital. Remember that having time for each other does not necessarily have to be extravagant or expensive. Find enjoyment in the little things. Love does not always have to be shown in big gestures. Sometimes, it is the seemingly insignificant acts of love –the ones that we often take advantage of—are the ones that mean the most. What matters is that you show your appreciation for each other, and that you do activities that help strengthen your bond.
Find Support Online - So many individuals are in the same boat. They face similar challenges and struggle with identical issues. Sometimes, these people might even understand you on a level that your significant other might struggle with. So many caregivers have found support and guidance through online communities, and it would be all right for you to do the same. The communities provide a no-judgment platform where caregivers can share their frustrations and stresses and get the support that they need.
Do you have other recommendations you would like to share regarding balancing marriage and caregiving? Perhaps, you have a question for myself or Ms. Stein. If so, please share them below.
Samantha Stein is an online content manager for ALTCP.org. Her works focus on key information on long term care insurance, finance, elder care, and retirement. In line with the organization’s goal, Samantha creates content that helps raise awareness on the importance of having a comprehensive long term care plan not just for the good of the individual but for the safety of the entire family.
How often as a family caregiver have you heard statements like, “Be sure to take care of yourself.” or “Don’t let yourself get too stressed." You may have heard such statements from friends, distant relatives, your physician, clergy, etc. But, how often do you hear them ask, “How are you doing?” or “What do you need?” Chances are you hear "How is your [mom, dad, sister, brother, etc.] doing?" more often than the former. Why? Because, unfortunately, many people don’t understand the hardships that a caregiver endures when caring for a relative and how you too need to be checked up on. So, how can you as the family caregiver take better care of yourself, especially when you can't control what questions other people ask you?
1). Be Bold and a little Self-serving - what I mean by this is you should not be bashful in letting others know how stressed you may be and what you need help with. This is not to be confused with venting without giving the person a chance to offer some help. Being able to vent is definitely helpful but it should be followed up with an expression of need. For example, "Ugghh, I've been having such a hard time managing mom's meds. I just wish I knew of some way I can make it easier on me and her." Such a statement opens the possibility of the other person giving a helpful response or feeling like they could potentially help you by looking into ways to make medication management easier on you.
2). Know What You Need - while this should technically be the first step, I list it second because sometimes knowing what you need won't lead to being bold but being bold can often get you to identify what you need help with. So, make a list of all the caregiving related tasks you have for your loved one. Tasks like taking him/her to doctor appointments, doing laundry, picking up medications, preparing meals, etc., are examples of tasks that potentially can be handled by someone else. Making a list of such tasks can help pave the way for you to delegate them to others.
3). Do Something for Yourself: Yes, I'm sure you have heard this from many other people and think to yourself, "Yeah right! As if that is going to happen." My response to you is, "It needs to happen." Caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your loved one. Without a chance to recharge your energy and your spirit, you will just be an empty shell. Doing something for yourself does not have to be anything elaborate or take much time. Perhaps it is attending a church service, going for a walk around the block, treating yourself to takeout, watching your favorite show or listening to some music. The point is, if it is something you find enjoyable, try to do it for 15 minutes. If you have enough time to allocate an hour, even better. Just do it!
Incorporating the above recommendations to take better care for yourself will more than likely not happen overnight, but with practice and serious effort, it can turn into something that can become part of your routine. Do you have recommendations on what caregivers can do to better care for themselves? If so, please share them below for other subscribers to read.
In a previous post, I discussed the unique hardships young caregivers experience when faced with the responsibility of caring for a loved one. A dynamic that is especially true when young caregivers are also going through life transitions like finishing up college, embarking on a new career and/or starting a new family. In this post, I share a few strategies young caregivers can employ to help make caregiving more manageable:
1) Identify what needs to be done - make a list of what needs to be done for your loved one and for yourself. The list for your loved one should include everything from quick tasks like picking up medications to more intense tasks like physically assisting them with bathing, dressing, eating, etc. as well as everything in between. The list for yourself should include tasks and goals associated with your career, relationships, and anything else that pertains to your personal life.
2) Be realistic and structured with your time - Having such a list is meant to visually show you what your day really looks vs. what you think it looks like. Having a greater understanding of what your day to day responsibilities are can, in many cases, help you create more structure. More structure has the potential to reduce any anxiety that can arise from feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you are losing control.
Once you know what needs to be structured, the next step is to utilize tools like a calendar, a notepad, etc. Whether used in a hard copy or an app format, such tools can help remind you about appointments, deadlines, events, pertinent contact information and important discussions with your loved one's medical team and service collaborators. Use of a calendar, specifically, can also help you maintain a level of sanity as it help prevents overbooking or overpromising.
3) Learn how to delegate - Now that you have a clear picture of what you must handle for yourself and your loved one, identify and explore which tasks can be handled by others. In other words, if you find yourself spending a lot of time going to the grocery store to pick up essentials or escorting your loved one to doctor's appointments, perhaps there is someone else in your family or social circle who can pitch in. Delegating tasks can relieve the stress associated with trying to manage it all.
4) Rally the troops - In order to delegate, it means you have to "ask for help" - one of the hardest things for caregivers to do. While there are numerous reasons to explain this hardship, some of the most common include fear of being judged and/or having pride. Rallying the troops basically entails finding resources in your communitythat can help make your life more manageable. This can include home care assistance, shopping services, food/medication delivery services, etc. In other words, the goal is to find other individuals and/or programs that can help out so that you don't have to do it all.
The strategies mentioned above are simply a starting point I recommend for the majority of caregivers I work with. Once such strategies are implemented, it then allows us to get a better sense of what will work and what needs to be modified. Caring for a loved one while navigating life milestones can be difficult but it is not impossible. Hopefully these strategies can help you get a good start.
Have you found any of the above to be helpful in your caregiving experience? Do you have other strategies you would recommend to other caregivers? If so, please share so below.
Being a family caregiver is a role that requires, at minimum, patience, knowledge, and the ability to seek out and obtain support. While caregiving is hard for the majority of individuals, regardless of age, it can be especially difficult for individuals between the ages of 18-30. Such caregivers, whom I will refer to as Young Caregivers, usually face issues that older caregivers have already had time to intellectually, emotionally and spiritually navigate. Such problems can include the following:
The Ability to Build a Support Network - building a support network when someone is in their late teens and early thirties generally requires the ability to be present at various events and outings. Activities like going to the movies, attending school events, going to parties or even just having the ability to live on-campus are just a few of the affairs/milestones that are often sacrificed by a young caregiver. By not engaging in such activities, it can result in the loss of existing friends as many non-caregiving peers will either not understand or can misinterpret the caregivers' absence. Perceived lack of interest can lead to harsh critique as well as fewer invites to future events, which will ultimately impede on the ability to maintain and build new friendships.
Making Decisions for their Future - for many young individuals, the ability to decide where to go to school and what career field to pursue is usually only limited to financial restraints, location, passion and/or interests. For young caregivers, however, they also have to take into consideration the person they are caring for. In other words, deciding if and where they can go to college is usually reliant on whether they have someone else to care for their loved one. Factors like being able to find and trust someone else to provide care, being able to afford services that may be needed, and/or dealing with cultural/familial obligations all play a role in their decision.
Another major factor, is the prognosis of their loved one's illness, especially if it is a terminal one. In such cases, deciding what to prioritize, their future or their loved one's condition, can weigh heavily on one's decision regarding future endeavors. A decision that can often be riddled with guilt and resentment.
Being Fully Present in a Relationship - one of the most common complaints I hear from both younger and older caregivers is the toll that caregiving takes on an intimate relationship. The ability to be fully present with a partner is often hindered by needing to tend to a loved one, venting about the frustration of caring for another person, and/or feeling anxious or depressed due to caregiving responsibilities. For young caregivers, however, they are also learning more about who they are as individuals both independently and within a relationship. Being a young caregiver, often means losing the opportunity to learn about oneself as reflected within a relationship. Anxiety and depression can also become common when the strain of caregiving impedes on the ability for a relationship to thrive and results in premature breakups.
Juggling School and/or Work - aside from managing the task of being a caregiver, finding time to study, attend class, finish projects at work, or even finding a job that works with one's caregiving schedule are other issues that young caregivers face. Figuring out how to best juggle these responsibilities is often a matter of trial and error and can result in feelings of anxiety and depression. Without the proper support, such stress can cause a young caregiver to drop out of school or lose a job.
Being a young caregiver, as with any caregiver of any age, is often overlooked and not fully understood by others. In my next blog post, I will discuss strategies young caregivers can implement to cope with the problems mentioned above. Be sure to sign up to receive my blog posts (above) via email so you don't miss it!
Are you a young caregiver? Can you relate to any of the hardships mentioned above? If so, feel free to share your thoughts.
Have you ever said, "My brother doesn't believe mom has dementia" or "My sister insists my mother is fine and I’m just overreacting" or "My brother and sister don’t help out as much as I need them to." If you are caring for a parent and have siblings, chances are you have said one of these statements or some version of it. As you may already know, being a family caregiver comes with a lot of challenges. A few of the challenges faced by siblings caring for a parent generally entail trying to get everyone to agree on a care plan or simply accepting a parent's diagnosis. And while factors like distance, sibling rivalries and estranged relationships can make a challenging situation seem nearly impossible to resolve, it is important to not overlook some of the basic reasons your sibling may not be "on the same page."
Reason #1-Your sibling is only getting a snapshot of the situation
For siblings who live at least an hour away from their parents or have a hectic schedule, they may find it easier to keep tabs with them via phone. While this is a great way to keep up-to-date with what is going on in a parent's life, it doesn't allow for a detailed view of things like cleanliness of home, medication adherence, personal hygiene, etc. As a result, when they are told by a sibling that mom/dad are not well, a common response can be, "Mom is just fine. I spoke with her yesterday and she sounded okay." Should you get such a response, don't immediately interpret it as a refusal to believe you. Instead, talk specifically about the changes you are noticing with your parent with regard to the home, finances, social life, etc. Doing so can give your sibling a better view of the entire picture and hopefully get them on board to assist. If your sibling does get on board, check out the post "I Am Worried About My Loved One" for some next steps to consider.
Reason #2- Your brother/sister may be in denial
Denial, for some adult children, is used as a defense mechanism for a variety of reasons including adjusting to mom or dad's need for assistance or coping with changing roles. Fear can also play a huge role in preventing some siblings to accept what's going on and inadvertently create a barrier to assisting with caring for your parents. One of the best things you can do for a sibling you believe is in denial is to give him/her time and space for the change to sink in. Insisting or arguing with your sibling about who is right and wrong will simply push him/her away. How much time you give your sibling depends on factors like his/her personality, upbringing, resiliency and relationship with your parent.
Reason #3 Your sibling is not emotionally capable of dealing with the situation
A big part of being a caregiver is the ability to come to terms with what is in front of you and forging ahead with a plan of action. For some siblings, however, they're unable to emotionally handle such a responsibility for a variety of reasons. And rather than relay those reasons to you, they may instead withdraw from the situation and make it appear as if they don't care.
Barring any past conflicts, sibling rivalries, estranged relationships, etc., you may have to realize that your sibling may not be strong enough to cope with what is going on. Yes, you yourself may not be as strong but since you are the person stepping-up to the plate you need to ask yourself "How much time and energy can I afford to devote to trying to convince my sibling to help with our parent(s)?"
Your answer lies in your response to this question. If you have time to spare and want to spend it trying to convince your sibling why they should be more involved, then by all means go ahead. But in my experience, many caregivers, especially primary caregivers, rarely have time to spare, and if they do I generally advocate that they spend it by taking care of themselves.
Ultimately, caring for a parent is difficult and yes we would like to have as many people on deck to help out, especially our own siblings. The reality, however, is that the caregiving role never plays out the way we envision it and for our own health and sanity we have to make wise decisions about which battles we choose to fight.
If you would like to share tips or suggestions regarding sibling conflicts and caregiving, please do so below.
There comes a time for many older adults, when taking medications becomes a new norm. This new "norm", however, can often be accompanied with confusion and/or forgetfulness regarding how and when to properly take their medications. The result of such confusion, whether attributed to a busy lifestyle or cognitive impairment may be hazardous to one's health. In order to increase the likelihood your loved one is taking his/her medications properly and on time, you may want to consider the following suggestions...
1). Learn About Your Loved One's Medications - find out what types of medications your loved one is taking, including prescribed, over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements and vitamins. Learning this information, as well as why your loved one is taking them, how long they will be taking them and potential side effects, can give you a better understanding of what your loved one's medication routine looks like. It can also help you keep track of its usage.
2). Create A List - compose a list of all medications as well as the dosage amount, number of refills left and the contact information of the doctor who prescribed the medication. This information can prove pertinent throughout your caregiving journey when requesting refills, consulting with other healthcare professionals and/or having to relay pertinent information in an emergency.
3). Review The List With The Medical Team - depending on your level of involvement and your understanding of the medications prescribed, you may find it helpful to regularly review your loved one's medication list with his/her medical team. This is especially important if your loved one has various medical professionals involved in his/her care. Essentially, you want to ensure the list's accuracy, necessity and potentially remove any drugs that are no longer needed or have a potential of harmful interaction.
4). Explore Available Options - there are many options available to individuals who have difficulty accessing or taking their medications. For example, easy-open bottles or large print labels are generally available through pharmacies for individuals who have trouble opening the bottles or reading the labels.
For individuals who forget to take their medications on time, some families find it helpful to set an alarm, make calls to remind their loved one to take the medication, or purchase a medication dispenser - a device that allows individuals to organize medication and in some cases, to set a time for automatic dispension.
Lastly, for individuals with severe cognitive impairement the aformentioned recommendations may not be effective. Generally, the best way to assure a loved one with severe cognitive impairment is taking his/her medications is to have someone physically present.
Do you have other recommendations you would like to share about what has worked for you and your family? Please share them below.
Recently, I was interviewed by Carol Bradley Bursack, founder of Minding Our Elders, for an article she was writing about compassion fatigue. During this interview, she asked me to define compassion fatigue and identify some of the warning signs family caregivers can look out for as they are providing care to a loved one. Below is information I provided her with along with proactive steps caregivers can take to try to prevent compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is an extreme state of great tension and stress that can result in feelings of hopelessness, indifference, pessimism and overall disinterest in other people's issues.
With regard to caregivers, compassion fatigue can manifest itself through actions like yelling, hitting, neglecting a loved one, etc. Basically, any action that is not characteristic of a caregiver's typical behavior but is now present and consistent. While some may simplify and attribute this change in behavior to frustration and/or resentment, it is important to understand that compassion fatigue is not something that occurs overnight. It is the result of days, weeks, months and years of managing caregiving responsibilities that are often unrecognized, emotionally demanding, physically exhausting and seem endless. As a result, it is not uncommon for feelings of frustration, resentment, hopelessness, guilt and/or a diminished sense of self to manifest.
Being proactive is one of the best ways to combat compassion fatigue or at least prevent it from getting out of hand. First and foremost, be aware of the warning signs:
Being aware of the changes in your behavior is the first step. The next step is to begin making yourself a priority and tend to, at the very least, some of your needs. While many caregivers feel this is impossible to do, it is important to understand that if you don't make time for yourself, no one else will. Start by allocating, at minimum, five minutes in your day to eat, pray, dance, laugh, walk, sing, read an inspirational quote, meditate, chat with a friend, the list can go on and on. My point is to give yourself a mental and physical break from actively caring for a loved one. The ability to do so in small bursts can allow you to begin the practice of caring for yourself and hopefully get you to do more of it in the future.
Having a non-judgmental outlet to express your thoughts can also prevent compassion fatigue. Outlets like a personal journal, talking with a confidant, or seeking advice from a healthcare professional can help you with processing your feelings and offer a safe place to release your pent up feelings.
If you find yourself already experiencing compassion fatigue, then let others know and seek professional help. Believing it will subside, especially while you are still actively caring for a loved one, can cause some individuals to become depressed, develop panic attacks and/or potentially put their loved one in harm's way.
Do you have any questions about preventing compassion fatigue or how to better care for yourself? Feel free to ask them below.
When planning for the future, most people willingly envision and plan for positive events like marriage, parenthood, retirement, etc. Events that are not often planned for, however, are the life-altering events that affect a person's ability to make decisions for him/herself. And while it is understandable why such issues are not willingly discussed, it is important to know that it could lead to days, weeks or months of emotional distress, financial strain and/or family conflict. In order to avoid the potential of such distress, it important to at least be aware of the term advanced directives and what legal documents exist in order to reduce the potential for conflict.
Advanced directives are documents created for the purpose of planning ahead and ensuring you and your family's needs are properly arranged for. Basic documents like a Health care proxy, a Living Will and Power of Attorney are documents that can ensure you and your loved one’s wishes are honored.
Health Care Proxy, also referred to as Medical Power of Attorney, is a legal document whereby a person is appointed to make medical decisions for another individual. For example, if your loved one suffers a stroke and becomes disoriented, a health care proxy would give you the legal ability to make medical decisions about his/her care.
Living Will is ideal for individuals who want to have their wishes in writing either because they do not have anyone to designate as proxy or because they hold strong convictions about the level of care they do/do not want.
Power of Attorney gives an appointed person the ability to handle another person’s finances. A durable power of attorney, specifically, allows the chosen individual to handle a person's finances even after the individual is no longer competent. Simple tasks like getting a new bank card for Mom or using Dad’s money to pay for his own medical care are more easily accomplished when a person is an appointed power of attorney.
HOW TO GET THESE FORMS - depending on the state you live in, getting the above forms can be as simple as speaking with your physician and/or with a social worker. The Power of Attorney forms can generally be obtained from an attorney. While there are versions available online, it is important to verify the document you have is the latest version as laws can change.
For information on Advanced Directives in New Jersey, click here; for New York, click here. For other states, visit www.lawhelp.org. Aside from getting over the hurdle of addressing this issue with your loved one and/or family, educating yourself about what is available can be a great way to start the process of planning ahead.
Have you already planned ahead and obtained any one of these documents? Do you have any advice you can share about having such a conversation with a loved one ? Feel free to share your advice/experience below.
One of the biggest hurdles many family caregivers face is reaching out for help. Between knowing what to ask, when to ask, and whom to ask - taking such action can be challenging. Whether due to uncertainty, reluctance or refusal, not reaching out for help can eventually cause caregiver burnout - the physical, mental or emotional exhaustion that impedes on the ability to provide the best care to a loved one. So, the question becomes, how do you know if you are on the path to burning out and what can you do about it? First we'll start with warning signs:
You Don't Get Sufficient Rest
Caring for another individual, especially a parent, can lead to endless nights of thinking, "What's going to happen to Dad?" or "How am I going to manage caring for my parent as well as work and care for my family?" Such thoughts are common for caregivers to experience throughout the day but for some, they will also experience it when they are finally resting or trying to sleep. This worrying often prevents caregivers from getting the rest they need thereby becoming more exhausted and more overwhelmed.
You Don't Have a Reliable Support Network
Not receiving help from your significant other, siblings, or other relatives could also lead to caregiver burnout. An unreliable support network, not to be confused with your family/friends not fully understanding your caregiving role, can sometimes cause more stress. Whether attributable to family dynamics or past conflicts, lack of support can lead to burnout if not recognized early enough and addressed.
Lack of Support at Work
Caring for a loved one while working can also cause significant stress, especially if your loved one needs constant supervision and/or attention. While it is normal to take a day off from work to tend to childcare needs, some caregivers shy away from taking off when caring for their parents for various reasons. This juggling act between the work and caregiving can be an extremely exhausting and stressful experience, especially if both responsibilities are demanding.
If any of these signs sound familiar, then you should be reaching out for help. Here are some ways you can do so:
Learn About Available Resources
Learn as much as you can about your loved one's medical condition, associated behavioral symptoms, and available community resources. Resources like support groups, respite care and other senior or caregiver-related services can help give you a break by alleviating some of your responsibilities. Being familiar with certain entitlements like the the Family Medical Leave Act can also help alleviate the pressure of juggling work and caring for your loved one.
Ask Friends and Family for Help
Never underestimate how helpful it can be to delegate minuscule tasks to friends, family members or neighbors. From picking up essentials like milk and bread, to driving your loved one to appointments these tasks often prevent caregivers from being able to relax and recuperate. By asking someone else to help you with your daily errands, however, it can reduce how much running around you have to do and give you a chance to "recharge."
Consult with a Geriatric Professional
In many cases, family caregivers try the above and get the break they need but also have a hard time dealing with the stress of knowing their parent(s) are aging or their loved one's health is declining. Sometimes, the only way to address such stress is by contacting a geriatric professional for counseling. And while it may be difficult to pick up the phone and admit you need help, the truth is that by taking such action you can receive help to reduce any anxiety, loneliness, or hopelessness you may feel.
Do you have any questions or thoughts you would like to share? Please do so below.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.