You work full-time, have a family, and care for mom or dad. You wonder why you’re exhausted all the time. You know patience is a virtue but you feel rushed most days. Too many responsibilities cause burnout when you don’t care for the caregiver. Maybe your spouse or loved one’s chronic conditioning is worsening and you struggle to give the care you want. The demands of care giving affect caregivers physically, emotionally, and financially.
You’re Not Alone as a Caregiver
Family caregivers are the norm. In fact, according to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, 83% of relatives are unpaid caregivers. Of those, 67% are female and 58% are married or in a relationship. The average length of time dedicated to care giving is 5 years under 65 and 7 years over 65. With these statistics, if you are female over 49, your chances are great that you will become an unpaid caregiver for a family member.
Burnout comes in all forms. Depression is common among caregivers. According to the Society for Certified Senior Advisors, as much as 50% of family caregivers suffer from depression. Also, because of the mental health stigma in society and the challenges with care giving, many caregivers do not get treated. This leads to worsening problems for both the caregiver and the care receiver.
Common Causes of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver role was forced on you. Given added responsibility without a choice is difficult for anyone. It is especially difficult for the caregiver. Taking care of another person, especially when you have many other responsibilities or lack the skills, can create hardship and resentment.
Health of the Caregiver. The health of the caregiver also leads to burnout. The majority of unpaid family caregivers are over forty and may struggle with their own health conditions. Often the caregiver will care for others at the cost of their own health.
Parent-Child Role Reversal. There is an expectation in society for the way parents and children behave. However, it is common for the adult child to take on the parenting role when becoming a caregiver. This role reversal often strains the relationship and leads to burnout. An example is when the adult child forces a parent to stop driving due to safety concerns. While the goal for the parent is to stay independent, taking away a driving privilege may cause resentment towards the adult child.
Limited Number of Siblings. The family structure is changing. There are more generations with less people within the family. Because people are living longer, it is common to have parent, grandparents, and great grandparents alive, however, the number of siblings is reduced. This leads to less people available to provide care. The reality is that the family structure is changing. Multi generational households accounted for 16% in 2010. Also, the family structure has changed dramatically in the United States. The new beanpole family structure has four or five generations alive but less people within the generations. You may know of an only child who has parents, grandparents, and great grandparents alive. This new family structure increases the burden of care giving for the only child.
Long-Distance Care Giving. Jobs, family responsibility, and personal health may cause the caregiver to move away from the care receiver. According to the Society for Certified Senior Advisors, 15% of adult children live more than an hour away from their parents. This situation is stressful on the long-distance caregiver because time constraints limit the amount of care that can be provided. Also, it is often shocking to see the dramatic health changes in a loved one with infrequent visits.
Out of State Siblings. Along with long-distance care giving, other siblings may live out of state. This places the care giving burden on the one or two children that live near mom or dad. Not only does this cause extra work for the local child, it can create resentment and conflict towards the out of state siblings.
Dysfunctional Relationships. Poor communication, alcoholism, and other forms of dysfunction may create caregiver burnout. Caring for an angry or belligerent person, especially your parents, is challenging for anyone. This scenario causes emotional harm to the caregiver that can lead to burnout.
Complexity of the Care. Caring for someone for safety reasons is tolerable when the person can perform activities of daily living. However, when the person has limited ability or is bedridden, this type of burden can easily lead to caregiver burnout. Incontinence, large wounds, and frequent turning and feeding is demanding on any caregiver.
Care for the Caregiver Tips
Respite Care. Respite care gives the caregiver a break. Respite care can be provided by another person coming into the home or outside of the home. Adult Day Care or transporting the patient to a local hospital are forms of respite care as well. Hospital respite care is available for caregivers who need an extended time away from the care receiver.
Self-Care. If you’ve ever flown in an airplane you might remember the safety tip to place the oxygen mask on you before helping anyone else, even a child. Self-care and putting your health first are important to care for others. If you are not well, others will suffer.
Elder Care Manager. Often called a Geriatric Manager, an Elder Care Manager helps coordinate care for long-distance caregivers. Common tasks of Elder Care Managers include safety home assessment, community referrals, and status reports to the long-distance caregiver.
Ask for Help and Support. Siblings of caregivers often believe everything is fine unless heard differently. Asking for help and support from siblings, children, or others is healthy. Knowing your limits and communicating your need of support with others will help prevent burnout and resentment.
Support Groups. Support groups bring together others experiencing the same caregiver challenges. Many local hospitals offer support groups for caregivers by illness. For example, Diabetes, Stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Multiple Sclerosis are several support groups found in Northwest Indiana at local hospitals.
Caring for a loved one is an honor. Helping someone in need, especially a loved one shows respect for you and the other person. However, caring for anyone alone or for a long period of time, can lead to burnout. Following these care for the caregiver tips is a great start in taking care of you!