Acting as the primary caregiver for an aging parent, grandparent or loved one is special and rewarding, but it isn’t always easy. Even the most loving and devoted family members often experience stress, anxiety and, in many cases, burnout. Psychologists and social workers coined the term “sandwich generation” which applies to adult children who are “sandwiched” between care for their own children (or professional career) and care for their parents, grandparents or other aging family members. In my own situation, I often feel inadequate in all areas of my life – professional life, Mommy life, spousal life and daughter life and this leaves me feeling sad, guilty and sometimes overwhelmed. I have 3 elementary school children and care for my 82-year old Mother who has Parkinson’s Disease. Hiring a loving and professional caregiver for my Mother took the load off of both of us. It allowed us to embrace our cherished “Mom and Daughter” relationship again and helped me be a better Mom to 3 beautiful (but active!) girls. However, it is important to know the signs of caregiver stress and burnout to ensure safety for both the senior patient and the caregiver.
Unfortunately, many caregivers suffer from denial about the disease and prognosis of their loved one which can cause them to “over care.” Being optimistic about a person’s prognosis or abilities is one thing, but being in denial about their health is a major issue. Caregivers need to be realistic not only about what their role is, but also about the person’s condition now and in the future. This will help them manage stress and ensure that they provide the appropriate level of care at all times. I often hear new clients say that they have resisted care for their loved one because it means they are acknowledging how sick or infirm or dependent their loved one really is. I always encourage these clients to look at the situation through a positive lens – such as how they are enhancing quality of life in the Gold Years and how they are allowing the senior adult to live independently with autonomy — enhancing the health of mind, body and spirit.
Another common situation that leads to caregiver stress is anger over the situation or the senior’s illness. Frustration is common among those who provide care at home for seniors, and that can easily lead to anger. When caregivers become angry over the lack of a cure or irritable with others who don’t understand what they’re going through, it may be time to step in and provide that person with a much-needed break. Caregivers often feel helpless and alone.
Finally, be aware of exhaustion that impacts other areas of life. Caregivers sometimes put their heads down and just keep moving forward. They stop looking at the big picture and no longer make plans for the future. They’re so busy dealing with today’s issues and demands that they don’t have any energy leftover for themselves or other family members. The chronic exhaustion makes it hard for them to deal with the normal stress of life or the added stress of being a caregiver. Signs of the exhaustion include irritability and difficulty concentrating. I often find with my clients that when I acknowledge the difficult journey family caregivers have been on, they begin to cry or fall apart. That is likely because no one has previously acknowledge what they are going through as caregiver. This is why Home Care Assistance of Annapolis embraces the entire family when signing on a client – it is a team effort and the physical and mental health of all the team members is critical.
When you see warning signs of caregiver stress, in yourself or a loved one, it’s time to arrange for a break. Ask family members for help or seek the assistance of professional Annapolis caregivers who can offer respite care. Even if only a few hours a week, receiving a break will allow the caregiver to get proper rest and time to recuperate from their responsibilities.
For information about part-time home care in Annapolis, click here or contact us today at 443-302-2771. Our devoted Client Care Manager, Theresa Pritchett, or myself will be able to personally answer any of your questions. We can assist you with determining if hourly care is a good option or if your aging loved one would best benefit from a full-time caregiver.