While being a caregiver to a family member or friend can be a positive and rewarding experience, it can also take its toll physically and mentally. With an estimated 8 million Canadians providing informal care, understanding healthy habits is vital so that caregivers can deliver the best and most attentive care possible.
Without finding a healthy balance between caring for someone else and managing your own physical and mental health, you’re increasing your risk of developing what is known as caregiver burnout. If left unmanaged, caregiver burnout can lead to significant concerns for the caregiver and the care recipient.
Managing caregiver burnout is an essential part of the caregiving journey. Origin Active Lifestyle Communities know the importance of taking care of yourself to care for others. Our active assisted living communities offer resources and support to our team members and informal caregivers of the local communities.
We’re sharing some tips to help you both understand and combat caregiver burnout:
Understanding Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout can be the result of many factors at once. Far too often, caregivers may find themselves accepting the everyday stress and worry that accompanies providing care to an aging adult. It’s also common for caregivers to feel guilty that they aren’t doing enough for their family member.
Dr. Deanne Simms, a clinical health psychologist and Clinical Director at the Canadian Mental Health Association, says, “Sometimes people may feel guilty for not removing the pain or discomfort of the people they’re caring for. Or you can feel guilt while you’re providing care – and when you step away from the care to do something for yourself.”
These overwhelming stresses and burdens can quickly turn into caregiver burnout. Although sometimes, caregivers might be so consumed with other things, they may not acknowledge or notice the warning signs and symptoms, which include:
- Becoming easily irritated or angered
- Feelings of depression or overwhelming stress
- A lack of energy or overall fatigue
- Mood swings
- Changes in eating habits (weight gain or loss)
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Getting sick more often than usual
- Withdrawing from friends and family
Recognizing the warning signs is an essential first step in managing caregiver burnout and its consequences. Once you identify that you are experiencing feelings of burnout, you can make an effort to address these feelings and protect yourself and your family member from further complications.
Here are some ways to manage caregiver burnout and continue providing the best care possible to your family member.
1. Ask For (and Accept) Help
Many informal caregivers believe that caring for their family member is their responsibility and no one else’s burden to bear. As a result, they carry around a lot of thoughts and feelings like:
- “This is my parent, so it’s my responsibility.”
- “Nobody knows Mom’s schedule as well as I do, so I have to do it myself.”
- “If I’m not there, something might happen, and I’ll never forgive myself.”
While it’s admirable that you want to handle the responsibilities alone, it’s simply not realistic—or expected. You may be surprised at how much family members and friends are willing to help out.
If you start to feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or anxious about the situation, reach out to a friend or family member for assistance. It may be as informal as having someone check in with you weekly to ensure you are rested or as involved as asking someone to drive your parent to their doctor’s appointment while you pick the kids up from school.
Even if you are confident in your caregiving tasks, say “yes” if someone offers assistance. That little break of having someone else pick up the groceries or shovel their front steps may be just what you need to refresh and recharge.
2. Take Care of Yourself
Caring for a parent or family member may be your main priority at times, but don’t forget the importance of maintaining your own health. If you don’t take care of yourself, it’s difficult to take care of someone else.
Caregiving can be as time-consuming as a full-time job, and if you already have a full-time job or any other responsibilities, it can leave little time for exercise, cooking, hobbies, rest, or socializing with friends. Eventually, this lack of adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and sufficient physical activity can take a toll on physical and mental health. Here are some tips to stay on top of your health and prioritize your wellness while caregiving:
- Stay up-to-date on your check-ups and medical appointments.
- Meal plan and prep at the beginning of the week. If you’re on your way home from your parent’s house and realize you don’t have anything prepared for dinner, it can be easy to stop at a fast-food restaurant or pick up a frozen pizza. However, if you plan ahead, you can ensure that you have something healthy and easy to prepare at home.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. When you hit that afternoon slump, sugar and caffeine can work as a quick pick-me-up but typically end in an energy crash that impacts the rest of your day. Instead, foods like nuts and fresh fruits provide steady, nourishing energy.
- Find time to exercise, even if it’s just a 30-minute walk in the evenings. Exercise is also a powerful stress reliever, mood enhancer and is found to boost energy levels.
- Do something that you love. Take some time to simply do something that you enjoy, whether it’s going to dinner with friends, going on a hike with your family, or even something as simple as taking a bubble bath and reading a good book.
3. Join a Support Group
For some caregivers, relieving stress could be as simple as meeting with a support group and sharing your feelings with people going through similar experiences. In most support groups, you can talk about your feelings and worries and listen to others talk about theirs. The goal is to realize you are not alone and gain valuable insight into caregiver tools, resources, and community.
4. Seek Outside Help
As much as you try to manage your wellness and prioritize your health, sometimes, the responsibilities of caregiving can become too much, and you realize you need additional support. This doesn’t mean you have failed as a caregiver; it means that you are putting your family member’s health, safety, and wellness first.
There are many options for finding support for your parent, including assisted living and respite care services at senior living communities like Origin.
Our respite care services offer short-term care to individuals while their family members and caregivers can take time off to handle other obligations or responsibilities.
Our assisted living communities offer a residential care option that provides full-time support and assistance to individuals.
Both options offer an engaging and supportive environment filled with daily stimulation, socialization, nourishing meals, maintenance and repairs, and much more!
Caring for The Caregivers
Caring for a family member or friend is a rewarding and admirable experience. Still, it can also be overwhelming and stressful, and if not appropriately managed, it can lead to feelings of caregiver burnout. Fortunately, many strategies and resources are available to manage these feelings and ensure that both the caregiver and the care recipient are looked after and fulfilled.
At Origin Active Lifestyle Communities, our assisted living and other services are designed to help support individuals and family caregivers. Beyond that, we also support the caregivers within our communities. For example, we created our Soul Café as a way for Origin team members to focus on their wellness and come away feeling revitalized and refreshed to deliver the best care possible.
If you are a caregiver and you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that you are not alone. Origin Active Lifestyle Communities offers independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care services that deliver dedicated care to individuals and offer peace of mind to caregivers. To learn more about our senior care services throughout western Canada, visit our website.
Updated on December 1, 2021