Caring for an aging loved one - or anyone with a chronic disease or condition - is a full time job. Managing medication schedules, doctor appointments, physical limitations can take its toll on the daughters, sons, husbands and wives of the aging population. Often, these “caring heroes,” as we like to call them at Tabitha, are part of the sandwich generation meaning they care for their parents at the same time as raising a family and working full-time jobs.
The stress can have detrimental effects. Caregiver burnout is a term now recognized by many medical professionals as a serious problem associated with caring for an aging population. Basic self health can be forgotten as caregivers continuously provide for the needs of others.
Apart from the sandwich generation, we’ve seen an increase in spouses caring for their aging partners. Just as stressful, many times these individuals are battling health issues of their own, relying on love to keep them going. But love only takes you so far.
Caregiver burnout is real. Check out these tips for minimizing the stress and being the best you for caring for your aging loved ones.
1. Ask for help
The hardest and the simplest thing to do - ask for help. It’s not easy to admit limitations. “I should be able to check in on Mom everyday. That’s the least I can do for her.” “I should be able to keep up with my wife’s memory loss.” These are familiar statements from caregivers, but can lead to burnout in trying to do it all. So get rid of the “shoulds.” Caring for an aging loved one is not only physically demanding but emotionally and spiritually. “Doing it all” is not possible for anyone. Ask for help. Perhaps a neighbor could check in on Mom every other day. Perhaps a service could come in and clean the house once a week to ease some of the responsibilities. Think about who in your life cares—chances are, they’d be willing to lend a hand.
2. Determine what’s realistic
School drop off, work, business lunch, school pick up, soccer practice, dinner on the table, homework, check in on Dad, make Dad meals for the week, call the doctor about appointment, sort out Dad’s pills, help Dad in the bath, pick up the house.
Phew. No one can keep up with that kind of schedule, but it’s all important. Make a list of what all needs to be done. Determine how many hours are in the day, which items take priority and which items you can lean on others for help.
3. “You” time
It may be last on your priority list, but it should be near the top to avoid caregiver burnout. Remember the oxygen on the plane scenario? Put your mask on first so you can be refreshed and your best you when helping an aging loved one.
4. Utilize community resources
There are dozens of community resources available to help individuals care for their aging loved ones. Do the research and discover what they may be in your area. Some examples may include:
- Senior centers
- Housekeeping/lawn services
- Senior groups
- Non-medical in-home support - assist with items like baths and even medication management
- Meal programs - Tabitha Meals on Wheels not only provides a nutritious meal, but a daily check-in from a caring delivery volunteer
- Adult day programs - offer specialized and enriching programing for older adults during daytime hours. Many programs, like Tabitha Adult Day Services, offer regular schedules, or respite (drop in) so caregivers can run errands or go to work knowing their loved ones are safe and cared for.
5. Ask the experts
It takes a village to raise our children and it takes a village to care for our loved ones as they age. Knowing what signs may be a cause for concern or knowing what resources are out there is difficult, but there are experts to help.
Tabitha’s expert continuum navigation services meetings with families and fields phone calls daily about care options for loved ones. Our signature EngAGE program offers membership services so caregivers know there is an expert who is checking in, providing answers and offering a compassionate shoulder.
In a “I can do it all” society, caring for an aging loved one isn’t just hard, it’s impossible. Avoiding caregiver burnout is the best way you can embrace the aging journey and build more quality moments with your family.
Learn more about Caregiver Burnout