Caretaker Burnout

Elder care strategies, part three

You are one of the fine sons, daughters, or grandchildren of the world, willing to take on that task of helping an older relative through the golden years. You are responsible and kind, devoting love and care for your mom, dad or a dear someone.

You are also troubled by it. That is hard to admit, but true. Who has not had a bad day while raising a child? It is not that you do not love and adore the child when a bad day or "year" hits. The same goes for caring for an older adult in your life.

There are many places to go for help and support. At the end of this article you will be able to sigh and hopefully see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Grab a pen and paper or copy them over to the place you stash important stuff you read on The New Homemaker.

Signs of burnout / exhaustion

• Persistent resentment
• Loss of interest in life
• Irritable
• Angry
• Lacking sleep
• Violent feelings
• Seldom feeling appreciated
• Never have time for pleasure
• Guilty if you take time for yourself
Re-evaluating your commitment

First and foremost, you must remember nothing is set in stone. What works for you today may not work for you tomorrow. Stay flexible. Concentrate on today, keeping tomorrow in sight. You can always change your mind. If you find that your decision for one type of care is not practical, go back to the drawing board. You still care for the person you have decided to care for, you just do it differently. Let's look at some of the circumstances that make periodical re-evaluations necessary.

Planning around everyone's needs

All members of the family are important. If you only plan around the needs of Grandma someone else will suffer. In a family there is constant balancing, so many people to think of. You may have children still at home or those you already raised still needing you. Your spouse needs to remain important and so do you. When you agreed to take care of the older person in your life you committed the entire family. If you are fine with the situation and schedule, super--you should be proud. Skip the next paragraph if you live alone or want to.

If you want to break your back it is your choice, right? However, think of the effect on the entire family unit. Even if you are doing great--is the family? One way to find out is to ask. Hold a family council and welcome input. It is amazing how much you can learn in 20 - 30 minutes about people that you thought you knew. We hold a meeting like this several times a year when we are discussing some big event. I regularly go into these thinking I know what everyone is feeling. I never go away without learning something about one of the kids or my husband.

You vs. you

You are one of the people you need to care for. It is too common that the caregiver is not cared for. It seems to be our nature to nurture everyone except ourselves. If you feel exhausted, chances are you are the individual neglecting you.

Taking a back seat in life so you can offer someone else the front seat is not a healthy goal. If you have ever been in the back seat of anything you know the view can be tiring. To sit only in the front is not fair either. On the road of life-take turns. You will need to give Grandma some of your time and you some of your time. You can give yourself and others in your life the front seat at times and not be leaving Grandma or them without a ride.
On other days, you may be the one in the back; it will not feel as unfair or tiring knowing you get the front tomorrow. That is how you avoid burnout. That is how you save you from you.

The burdens we place on ourselves usually are the ones that give us the most strife. Have you demanded too much from yourself? Would you impose the same requirements on a dear friend?

You are your own friend.

Ten (well, eleven) signs that it is time to reevaluate
  1. Chewing your food as you look for the car keys seems normal.
  2. You haven't worn anything ironed in over a year.
  3. "Hello" and "Goodbye" is considered one on one conversation.
  4. Your dog thinks you are a burglar when you come home.
  5. The letter carrier sees you as much as your family.
  6. Christmas decorations are out, but December is three months away!
  7. You wonder how Noah's family didn't throw him off of the boat.
  8. You take a two-minute shower and apologize for taking so long.
  9. Your parrot says, "Aghhhhhh, I Can't Take This Anymore."
  10. You secretly understand the statement, "Only the good die young."
  11. You actually thought this list was funny.
Places to go for help

There are some good places to go for help on and off line.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAoA) listed in the city or county government sections of the telephone directory under Aging or Social Services. Many services provided through the AAoA will help ease the load you carry. Some of the areas of support are: homemaker or home-health aide services, home-delivered meals, transportation assistance, home modification and repair and legal assistance. They can help you find additional help such as transportation and chore services, home repair and other support services. AAoA can direct you to resources and programs available in your community. To see the online AAoA Directory and find your state, try the Area Agency on Aging website.

Good luck and chin up. While you're looking up, take a peek at the sky. Marvelous, isn't it?

Barbara Richardson is 37 years old and lives on 13 acres in Indiana with her husband and three children, and a dog and cat. She loves fishing, cartooning, writing, animals, cooking, bread baking, and her family, not specifically in that order. Barbara says, "I am proud to be a stay at home and a wife. I take pride as well in living within my income and not being a slave to debt."