Many baby boomers are learning the true definition of the word caregiver. As your parents, and in my case grandparents are requiring more than just a quick visit every other day or so. My grandmother is 96 and lives on her own in the family home I grew up. That sounds great and trust me it is, but all that is required that goes smoothly can be draining, especially when only a few of many family members help out. You quickly find yourself stressed, and both mentally and physically drained.
Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves stressors. Caregivers stress can be particularly damaging, since it is typically a chronic long-term challenge. If you do not get the physical and emotional support you need, the stress of caregiving leaves you vulnerable to a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, and burnout. Moreover, when you reach that point, both you and the person you are caring for suffer.
Learning to recognize the signs of caregiver stress and burnout is the first step to dealing with the problem.
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress:
- Feeling tired and rundown
- Difficulty sleeping
- New or worsening health problems
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Cutting back on leisure activities
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout:
- You have much less energy than you once had
- It seems like you catch every cold or flu that is going around
- You neglect your own needs, either because you are too busy or you do not care anymore
- Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
- You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
- You feel helpless and hopeless
- You are increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you are caring for
Taking on all the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a recipe for burnout. Never hesitate to ask family and friends for help. Be sure to schedule regular check-ups for yourself to stay on top of lurking health issues. Be willing to relinquish some control.