When one takes up the caregiving torch they don’t always realize the marathon that they are about to run. In today’s society we are focused on the quick fix on getting better faster. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially when caring for an elderly loved one.
Many times caregivers don’t even realize that they are in fact giving care. They feel it is just helping mom with laundry or checking to see if dad has taken his medications. Other times its setting out what your husband should wear for the day or helping your wife with their nightly bath.
Almost like a thief in the night, the amount of time and effort given to caring for a loved one begins to increase and with it so can stress related to being depended upon for that care. Most caregivers provide out of love and respect for their loved one. They do it selflessly and without thought to themselves.
Unfortunately, this mindset can lead down a slippery slope that caregivers must be mindful as they run mile after mile. If you or someone you know is a caregiver it’s important to watch for some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout.
Short Fuse: Do you lose your temper easily or feel anger toward your loved one? Are you more irritable and find yourself snapping at those you love?
Emotional Outbursts: Do you cry for no reason or experience feelings of despair? Do you experience significant mood swings? Do you feel depressed?
Sleep Problems: Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? When you wake up are you tired?
Significant Weight Change: Have you gained or lost weight recently? Are you trying to gain or lose weight?
Lethargy: Have you lost your motivation? Do you feel sluggish? Mentally are you able to read or concentrate?
Physical Ailments: Does your head hurt often? Are you getting minor illnesses like the flu or colds on a more regular basis? Does your back or neck hurt or are you in chronic pain? Has your blood pressure increased?
Social Isolation: Other than your loved one, do you sometimes go an entire day without seeing anyone from the outside world? Do you still participate in your normal social activities? When was the last time you had a day to yourself? Do you feel completely misunderstood and that other family and friends don’t care as much as you?
Complaints from Family: Does your family call you a “control freak?” Is your family asking when they’ll get to see you? Are arguments with your loved one’s other family members escalating?
If you or someone you know begins to exhibit some of the above signs it is important to recognize that they are very common, but that they can be rectified. Usually what this person needs is some time away from the caring race. Even an hour or two can help offset the ramifications of caregiver burnout, but getting the person to recognize that it’s OK to take a break is often hard.
Luckily, there are many places that one can turn for help. Family, friends and neighbors are always offering to help. Ask them to come and visit with Mom while you go to a movie or get a massage. If you don’t want to be a “burden” contact your County’s Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) to get a listing of agencies that can provide respite care for your loved one for a few hours or for a more extended length of time.
Respite care can be done at any time, for any ailment and in the comfort of your loved one’s home or at an off-site location. Most importantly it is a wonderful reprieve for the caregiver, as it allows them the opportunity to relax, rejuvenate and come back to the race of caring refreshed and ready to tackle whatever mountain or valley might appear.