Caregiver Burnout: Causes, Signs And Solutions

One of the hardest things you may ever do is to be the caregiver of an aging parent and one very real side effect of being a caregiver is burnout. Caregiver burnout can take you from a kind, positive and concerned child to a snappish, negative unconcerned child. But what causes caregiver burnout? What symptoms should you be looking for? And if you are suffering from burnout, what can you do?

Causes

Obviously, being a caregiver is hard work, but burnout is often caused by more than just the physical and emotional care you have to provide. Other factors can include:

  • Role reversal- If you are caring for an aging parent, it can be hard to accept that your parent can no longer take care of you, as they likely always have. It’s an emotional upheaval that can prey on your well being.
  • Isolation- Many caregivers decide that it is their sole responsibility to assist their aging parent and they will not ask for help. It’s an unrealistic expectation to place on yourself and can lead, not only to isolation, but to resentment, as your entire world becomes caring for your mother or father.
  • High expectations: Your care is good for your parent, but it’s unlikely his/her health will improve simply because you are providing care. Expecting that it will can lead to feelings of failure. It’s best to be realistic about what your care can provide for your mom or dad.

Signs and Symptoms

Caregiver burnout can often manifest like signs of depression and are not to be ignored. Consider if any of the following describe you:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and passions
  • Withdrawal from friends and loved ones
  • Irritability, hopelessness or helplessness
  • emotional and/or physical exhaustion
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • weight gain or loss/change in appetite

If you have any of these symptoms or thoughts of harming yourself or the person you are caring for, you may already be experiencing caregiver burnout.

Prevention and Reduction

In order to prevent burnout or to curb burnout once you start to feel it, there are several outlets you should consider for relief.

  • A support group- Finding a group of people in a similar situation, who understand the hardships that come with caring for aging parents, can be a great outlet for caregivers. In support group you can air frustrations, share feelings and get advice from people who have traveled the same road.
  • Taking time for yourself- Yes, you are your parent’s caregiver, but you are also your own person. It’s important to take time for yourself, even if it’s just a couple of hours a week. You need that time away from caregiving to reboot. Take a class, participate in a hobby, see a movie…whatever sparks your interest. Alone time is not a luxury. It’s a necessity if you are going to maintain a good level of care.
  • Respite care- If you can’t get away without worrying that your parent is alone, hire respite care. Many home care companies can provide regular, short term, in-home care to relieve you while you tend to your own life. 
  • Adult day care- If you have to work outside the home, there are day facilities your parent can attend. Knowing your parent is well cared for during the day will ease your mind.
  • Home care help- There are agencies than can provide consistent, helpful caregivers to you and your aging parent. Home care help can ease the burden on you considerably, without the need to move your mother or father into a facility.
  • Exercise, proper sleep and good nutrition- Don’t ignore the cornerstones of your good health. 

Being a caregiver is hard, emotional work and you can’t take proper care of your parent if you aren’t taking proper care of yourself. Be aware of caregiver burnout. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. 

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2 Major Struggles to Expect As Your Parent Ages

When you are a child of an aging parent, you may start to feel like your roles are rapidly reversing; the person who once took care of you now needs your assistance. While you do not want to deny your parent this needed care, you may not know what you are getting into precisely. After all, caring for an aging adult is quite a bit different from raising children, for they have different needs and struggles.

However, if you know what to expect as your parent ages, you will be better prepared and equipped to help them through this time in their life comfortably and well taken care of. All you need are a few pointers for what to expect and look out for.

Vision Loss and Changes

As your parent ages, their vision and depth perception may begin to change and deteriorate rapidly. In fact, the elderly are the group most likely to suffer from eye disorders such as cataracts and glaucoma. 

If you notice your parent stumbling, falling, or moving more slowly than usual as if they are trying hard not to bump into objects that may or may not be in their path, you should take them to the eye doctor for an eye exam.

Additionally, if you notice that their eyes begin to look milky or cloudy, this is a sign of a worsening cataract that should be looked at by an eye doctor. Luckily cataracts are easily treated through surgery. The recovery is swift and patients almost always regain a good amount of their visual acuity back following surgery.

So, when you are with your parent look for these and other signs of vision loss such as holding the newspaper abnormally close to their face, constant squinting, rubbing their eyes, or even complaints of frequent headaches. These are all signs of vision loss. 

Hearing Struggles

As people age, changes in hearing inevitably occur as well. It is a completely natural process. However, hearing loss can present a unique set of dangers that go along with it.

If you live in tornado country for example, your aging parent may not hear the tornado warning sirens if their hearing loss is profound and untreated. Additionally, they will be less aware of what is going on around them both at home and out and about which could be detrimental to their safety, not to mention could inhibit communication. 

Signs of hearing loss are sometimes harder to notice until the hearing loss is profound. However, keep an eye out for certain signs. These include high volumes on radio or television, frequent miscommunications and misunderstandings (i.e. you ask them if they want to go to the store and they think you said someone is at the door), constantly needing information repeated, and a lack of reaction to loud or startling noises. These are all telltale signs of hearing loss.

Luckily, if this is the case, you just need to take your parent in to a clinic such as Hearing Clinic that can perform an audiological exam (hearing test) and can fit them with hearing aids. While your parent may be resistant to the idea of hearing aids at first, these devices could save their lives in the case of a natural disaster, fire, or attempted break-in at home. So, make sure you get them in for an appointment right away if you notice signs of hearing loss. 

If you keep an eye out for these factors and changes as you care for your aging parent, you will be well on your way to helping them handle and endure this transitional time in their lives. You will be able to help keep them healthy and safe as you continue to provide them with needed assistance and care. 

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