Caring for an aging loved one is a daunting task. Witnessing a parent that you once looked up to lose the qualities that made them independent is heartbreaking. The memories of their bold and brave lifestyles flash through your mind as you assist them with eating, bathing, and simply living. Suddenly, the role of the caregiver slams into your consciousness.
Burnout is extremely high in familial caregiving of the elderly. Most caregivers are middle-aged and part of the "sandwich generation." They are pressed to take care of their children and their aging loved ones. Add stress from a job and extracurricular activities to this situation, and it is easy to see how caregivers' stress levels can become unhealthy.
While stress may not completely subside, here are the most effective avenues for coping with your responsibilities:
- Accept help from others. Don't try to do it alone. Ask family members, relatives, and friends to become a part of the team. Naming your team gives it dignity too, such as Pop Pop's Pros or Grandma's Gifts. A team gives strength to the goal and prevents burnout.
- Do not feel guilty about not being able to do everything perfectly. Do the best you can and accept it.
- Set realistic goals while being a caregiver. It's unrealistic to think you can have your grandchild's birthday party at your house if you're taking care of your parent with Alzheimer's.
- Join a support group for caregivers. This will take away some of the depression and isolation. It will also be an opportunity to create meaningful friendships.
- Seek community social services, which provide time for the patient to be away from you as a caregiver. The patient needs time away from his or her routine also.
- Set personal health goals. Get a physical, rest, eat healthy foods, exercise, and drink plenty of water.
- Take time for yourself away from everyone. Meditate, draw, paint, write, and go outside to enjoy nature.
While stress may make you feel like you have lost yourself in this new role, you can still be yourself while caregiving. However, it requires a conscious effort. It's much easier to let the role consume you. Make sure you start today and take strides towards a happier life.