Being able to care for an aging parent or spouse in your home is a gift, but it can also be a source of constant stress. Burnout is very real and is best avoided. Recognizing the symptoms of caregiver burnout and knowing where to seek help can make life more pleasant for both you and your loved one.
Everyone has bad days, but if you find yourself having more bad ones than good ones, chances are you are dealing with a case of burnout. The following are other symptoms that indicate that you may need a break:
Loss of interest in daily activities, hobbies, or friends.
Extreme fatigue, either mental or physical.
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
Unexplained weight changes.
Feeling "under the weather."
Irritation or frustration.
A few short-term strategies can help alleviate burnout, but they work best when paired with long-term changes.
Your first goal is to seek help. If there are friends or family nearby that are willing and able to help, accept their help. Taking a few hours off from your caregiving duties, even if it's just once a week, can help you alleviate stress.
Spend those few hours on yourself. It can be as simple as taking a long stroll alone, or you can use the time to stroll around a bookstore or engage in another favorite activity.
Long-term relief requires more than a few hours off. Consider the following options to make burnout a problem of the past:
Arrange for respite from senior care at regular intervals. Everyone needs a day off, even a family caregiver. Respite services will come in and take over your duties. You can schedule respite services for a few hours daily, weekly, or monthly. The respite caregiver will handle everything, from medicine and food, to helping your loved one with daily tasks.
Look into adult daycare. Senior drop-in day services are available. This gives your loved one time out of the house, and it gives you time away from your duties to unwind.
Hire a home aide. A home aide can fill one of several roles. They may help with daily chores, such as meal preparation and cleaning, or they may lend a hand with the actual care of your loved one. This can include performing therapy duties, helping with personal care, and taking care of the house while you run personal errands.
Once you have help for the senior care lined up, make it a daily goal to take more care of yourself. Keep up with your doctor's appointments, exercise daily, and spend time with friends and on enjoyable hobbies. Caring for an aging loved one is hard work, so you do deserve a break sometimes.