Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and it meets at the bar.
Caregiving isn't necessarily a paid job, particularly if you're caring for your aging parents. However, it can be just as demanding - often more demanding - than a full-time job. Some caregivers feel like they're on-call 24/7 and some really all. The job of caring for your aging parents, who may have a wide range of physical and emotional needs, can be exhausting. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to be objective about your own physical and mental state. For one thing, you might not have the luxury of time to do that in. You may feel like you have to keep going no matter what. MISTAKE! HUGE MISTAKE! That's how burnout happens. And it's often only a small step from burnout to negative impacts on your health, and your family. Worse yet, if burnout is ignored, it can lead to elder abuse. We'd all like to think that would never happen to us, but anyone who has raised children realizes that when the caregiver is totally exhausted, they need to either get help or step back. Otherwise, things can be said or done that you may come to deeply regret.
Signs of caregiver burnout can range from being tired all the time, to getting irritated easily, to more serious signs, such as unreasonable anger towards either the family members you're caring for or towards other members of the family. One sign that should never be ignored is any thoughts about wishing to harm either yourself or the family member you are caring for. Frequent thoughts about how you expect/want your aging parent to die, should also be a red flag. See the article above for a more detailed description of possible signs and symptoms. Other serious signs might include the inability to delegate to others, a sense of perfectionism, or a deep resentment about how you don't have a life anymore. (photo: Ovewhelmed, Iris Slootheer, flickr creative commons)
Read here for further thoughts on Causes of Caregiver Burnou
There are lots of options. Here are some things that have worked for me.
- Cut yourself some slack
- Accept imperfection
- Get help, either from a sibling, respite care, a paid caregiver, or whoever you can find!
- Join a support group.
- Take regular time for yourself, either when your parent is napping or in bed or sitting quietly watching television. Sure, something could "happen," but the same thing is true of children. If you've raised children, you probably didn't watch them every minute, 24-7.
- Eat well.
- Laugh as much as you can.
- Pace yourself, caregiving isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.
- Ask yourself what you can do, not what you should do.
- Accept help if it is offered, even if you don't think the person will do things exactly the way you do.
- Arrange for Adult Daycare, if available.
- Find someone to talk to, such as a counsellor, pastor, best friend, or social worker.
- Take a vacation. You deserve one. Make arrangements for someone else to come in for a week or 2 and take a holiday. Just do it!
- Take a mini-vacation (holiday). If you can't do this, then you need to get help ASAP.
If none of these ideas appeal to you, here are some more good suggestions that nearly anyone can do.
Home Instead is a national organization designed to provide non-live-in caregiving and respite care.