Burning the candle at both ends inevitably leads to burnout. Family caregivers are prone to emotional burnout. There's way too much for one person to do, especially if your aging parent or loved one suffers from dementia or another illness that requires 24/7 care. Don't plan on doing it alone. And if you're already trying to tackle caregiving without any help, it's time to call in the troops.
Ten Warning Signs of Emotional Burnout:
- Excessive crying
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Feelings of resentment
- Scattered thoughts
- Changes in eating and/or sleeping
- Decrease in productivity
- Constant fatigue
- Inability to relax
- Lashing out
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Take These Steps to Stay Emotionally Healthy
If you tend to be more of an Oscar than a Felix, work on getting things in order. We're not talking polished perfection. But if you've merged two households, or are about to, a professional organizer can help purge the clutter and furniture you don't need. A crowded home is hard for an elder with declining mobility to navigate. And disorganized messes drain energy - something you can't afford to lose.
Paperwork piles up quickly when you're helping an elder. A professional organizer can create a calendar/filing system so you're not wasting time shuffling through documents every time you talk to the doctor or lawyer. A good organizer makes a significant difference in one visit. If you can't afford a pro, ask a friend or family member for help. Everyone knows someone who alphabetizes her spices and carries a label gun. Put aside your pride and ask. Chances are, she'll be flattered and more than willing.
Devise a health care plan.
If you haven't yet, get your loved one diagnosed immediately. You need to know exactly what you'll both be dealing with. Get as much information about the prognosis so you can plan for the future. Then talk to your parent and family members to figure out what steps you might take as the level of care changes. And remember, the future isn't written in stone; it should be a flexible plan, but a plan nevertheless.
Do Research and Use Resources
It's a good time to be a caregiver. Never have there been so many resources, information, and services available. Dive in. Become an expert on your parent or loved one's health condition. (links to health overview) Become an expert on available respite care. Become an expert on paying for care. Arm yourself with information and you'll feel empowered instead of defeated.
Schedule Lots of Breaks
We can't stress this enough. You need help. You need respite care. End of discussion.
Devise Your Own Health Care Plan
Sit down with a paper and pen and plan specific ways you'll take care of yourself. Imagine you must prepare for a long race and need to be in top emotional and physical health. Then make the commitment to yourself. Eat right, get good sleep, take time to do things you enjoy, keep up on your own doctor and dentist appointments, and get emotional support.
Talk it Out
Talking does wonders for your emotional and physical health. Here are a few ways to get those words flowing:
- Join a caregiver support group.
- Check out an internet caregiver support group. (Try one of our forums or ask an expert, or sign up for an expert phone consultation.)
- Seek professional counseling.
- Talk to a trusted and wise friend.