I love spending time at my home here in Maryland, but from time to time I dream of vacationing to new and exciting places. Don’t you? Well imagine feeling like you could never take that vacation. That’s the reality that a lot of caregivers are facing, because they feel like they are only one call away from disaster. When you are responsible for caring for your aging parents, you don’t know what can happen from moment to moment. And so, your life and your plans get put on hold.
Caregiving is a monumental and loving task… one that we all want to provide for our loved ones. But it is a task that can come with a heavy toll on those who provide it. The mental, physical, and emotional weight of it all can leave you feeling drained and withdrawn… stuck in a cycle of living the same day over and over again. And sometimes, what you want more than anything is just to feel like you can go out to dinner or a movie.
If left unchecked, caregiver burnout can end up hurting your ability to provide the best care for your parents. Whether you’ve already experienced caregiver burnout, or you think you’re heading for it, there are ways to overcome some of the most common causes of burnout.
Lack of preparedness for the unexpected
One of the most common causes of caregiver burnout is the stress of trying to anticipate the unknown. Mom or dad might be doing great today, but there’s no way to know what might happen from day to day. And if the unexpected should happen, there’s usually a lot of stress involved with finding additional care, figuring out how to pay for it, and dealing with legal matters sooner than expected.
To overcome this, make decisions and a plan from the start… before your parents ever need care. Know what their wishes are, what assisted living option you will be choosing if part of the plan, and where the financial support is coming from and how much. With all your ducks in a row, you won’t be forced to make decisions under stress or when it’s too late for your parents to have options. If you are already experiencing caregiver stress, or your parents are already in a care setting, you can start now with your plan before any more time goes by.
Lack of support
Caregiving can be an isolating and lonely role, and it could be that your biggest challenge is not having support in the task. But there’s no caregiving situation that’s not likely to benefit from getting some help in some fashion, either personally or professionally. On the personal side, it could be enlisting the help of family members or friends to share in the responsibility of daily care if you feel comfortable asking.
On the professional side, looking to an objective third party such as a geriatric care manager to help you explore your options might be a good step if you struggle to ask for help or don’t often get it when you do. The benefit of a third party is that you can navigate your parents’ care without the added emotional attachment that comes from dealing with family…which can be useful if you’re already in a stressful state.
One of those options you might explore with a third party may be assisted living. Families and caregivers tend to avoid seeking skilled care because they feel guilt in not being able to meet their parents needs. But in many cases, assisted living can provide a higher level of care and support for your parents while giving you the freedom to care for yourself so you can better advocate for your parents. With assisted living in your corner, it’s okay to take a break. When you trust your caregivers in assisted living, you can finally get your life back, find a new balance that is a win win for all.
Lack of boundaries
For many people, losing themselves in the caregiving role is a major cause of burnout. Everything you would normally do to care for yourself is put on hold. Relationships are put on hold. Everything becomes centered around your caregiving role and providing for your parents. Whether you are the primary caregiver, or even if you have help in the form of a drop-in caregiver or assisted living home, boundaries are crucial to caring for your own well-being and maintaining your own life.
But boundaries can be tough for many people to set. So, start small with one or two boundaries to see how it feels. Maybe you don’t host any family gatherings because you have the primary responsibility of your parents’ care. Or maybe you don’t do anything caregiver related on Saturdays to give yourself a day for self-care or to nurture your other relationships. Once you have a couple under control, it will get easier to set more.
Check out wellhomed.com/contact/ to schedule a tour with us and see how assisted living can help prevent burnout for you and provide your parents with the care they need and deserve.