Are you taking care of your aging parents with more health issues than a WebMd page? It’s a duty that you probably take on willingly, and with total love and devotion. However, you need to take care of yourself too.
Many caregivers are at risk for burnout, driven by anxiety/worry and physical and emotional exhaustion. Without proper self-nurturing your exhaustion can lead to mood swings, irritability, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and an unshakeable blues. Here are some tips for managing caregiver burnout
Express yourself without guilt
We often feel that sharing our emotions— fear, anger, resentment and guilt—is tantamount to betraying our parents. We are afraid of being judged (“How can you say that, after all they did for you when you were younger?”)
and being told to “just deal with it.”
It’s important to recognize these emotions as a natural reaction to stress. You don’t love your parents less, or are abandoning your duty. You are simply feeling the effects of the physical and emotional demands of caring for someone who is sick and very dependent on you. Talk to friends who will understand or a “compassionate and objective stranger” such as a counselor or a therapist.
Keep your “me time”
Do take breaks and indulge in activities you enjoy. It will help you release stress and maintain your sense of self.
Make time for exercise or light activity that will help boost your energy levels. Indulge in simple treats like a long, hot bath or a massage. Talk to other siblings if you can take regular “shifts” (like, someone can stay with your parents on Sunday afternoons) so you can always have that time off.
This may be a challenge if you are busy with a job and raising kids too. Read our work life balance tips for busy parents.
One way of dealing with frustration and anxiety is to arm yourself with information on the conditions that your parents are struggling with. Talk to their doctors and/or therapists. Look at websites and join support groups. You can also seek the advice of professional caregivers on how to handle common situations, such as bedsores for
There are many organizations that offer emotional support to caregivers, such as the The National Family Caregivers Association and the Family Caregiver Alliance online support group.
Photo from sandiegocaregiversblog.com