I recently met with Susan, who was worried about her mom, Rachel.
Rachel is the caregiver for 2 perennials (her own mother and her mother-in-law) as well as her disabled adult son.
Susan is worried about Rachel, because Rachel is taking care of everyone but herself, and seems to be on a road straight to CAREGIVER BURNOUT. Not only is she doing everything for everyone, she feels enormously guilty if she lets anyone down.
What is Rachel supposed to do?
As we move through life, we are all juggling a lot of balls. We have responsibilities related to our jobs, families, churches, civic groups, and friends. We stay constantly busy.
Yet even when we are so busy, what do we do when our mom needs something? We say,
“Mom, what can I do to help?”
This question paves the road to the caregiving journey for many of us. Mom or dad needs a little something. Someone to check on them, or perhaps to pick up a few groceries or medicine. You are glad to do it. It is really no trouble at all.
But once you adopt the role of caregiver, where does it stop? Mom needs a little more help. Maybe someone to fill the pill box, mow the yard, or sort the mail when she is not feeling her best. So you add these duties to your list, and keep doing them, even when mom feels better.
Then you discover that mom is struggling at appointments to hear (and remember) what is being said. Since you now need to be there anyway, you help her get to and from these appointments, adding the role of driver to your list. Don’t forget to pick up those prescriptions on the way home.
What many people do not realize when they step into caregiving, however, is that caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint.
We start caregiving not realizing that the help we are being asked to provide is probably NOT a one-time thing. It is help that is going to continue to be needed for weeks, months, and maybe YEARS after it begins.
So before you start the caregiving journey, or even if you have already start this journey, take time to talk with your parents and your own family about the long road ahead. Do not neglect your own needs nor those of your family in favor of caregiving.
So what can Rachel from our example do to cope with her caregiving situation? What can you do to cope with yours?
1) Be realistic about loved one’s situations. As much as we may want to do everything and make sure everything is as perfect as it can be for our loved ones, we have to accept that we may not be able to do it all.
2) Prepare to ask for help. Friends, other family members, places of worship, and community organizations may provide support groups and resources (such as respite) that can be incredibly helpful.
3) Talk to someone. Friends and neighbors can be great listening ears, but professionals may also be needed. Clergy members, Therapists, and social workers are trained to counsel. Use them.
4) Stay healthy and take care of yourself. We can’t care for others if we are sick ourselves. Exercise, nutrition, and proper sleep are all extra important when caregiving.
5) Accept negative feelings and develop coping mechanisms. There are going to be days of anger and frustration. This is totally normal and doesn’t make anyone a bad caregiver. Try to accentuate the positive and use humor to cope. If you are either going to laugh or cry, go for the laugh!
What Caregiver Burnout challenges have you faced? How did you cope? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Photo by Zukiman Mohamad from Pexels