According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the year 2030 will mark a considerable milestone for US age demographics. All baby boomers will have turned 65 years, and by the year 2034, there will be 77 million people aged 65 or older. With elderly folks expected to outnumber young children by 2034, full-time and part-time caregivers will play essential roles in ensuring the well-being of inflating senior citizen populations.
Cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking are some of the primary responsibilities of elderly caregivers. However, the amount of support required primarily depends on the health condition and the needs of your loved one. While caregiver duties may vary from day to day, below are the typical responsibilities of a senior citizen caregiver:
• Assess the patient’s medical needs
• Provide companionship
• Attend to housekeeping duties
• Assist with basic needs like going to the toilet, bathing, and eating
• Assess the care plan
• Help those patients with mobility restrictions move from point A to point B
Beyond the above responsibilities, caretakers must assume the responsibility of taking care of their families. That said, caregivers are at a high risk of suffering from burnout. By definition, caregiver burnout is physical and mental exhaustion that could lead to a change of attitude. In these cases of caregiver burnout, a once self-driven caregiver may appear to be unconcerned or unbothered.
Burned-out caregivers may experience fatigue, anxiety, and stress. Other signs of this condition include:
• Withdrawals from society
• Reduced interest in activities they once enjoyed
• Loss of appetite
• Increased irritability
• Unusual sleep patterns
• Excess use of alcohol or sleeping medications
Because caregivers are busy tending to others’ needs, they may neglect taking care of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The demanding nature of the job may easily lead to fatigue, hopelessness, and ultimately burnout. Other causes of this burnout include unrealistic expectations, unreasonable demands, and role confusion.
Burnout is equally detrimental to the caregiver and the senior citizen under their care. You can try to prevent it by setting realistic goals, setting time aside for yourself, educating yourself on common burnout signs, and knowing your limits. However, when preventative measures don’t suffice, and the burnout slowly creeps in, you can treat it by seeking a therapist’s expertise and finding caregiver support groups.
Are you a senior caregiver and feeling overwhelmed? You may want to consider the below, often overlooked, tips to alleviate caregiver burnout.
Scrape responsibilities off your plate when possible
Do your elderly loved ones have the tools necessary for maintaining optimal independence? If your loved ones are physically capable of operating a mobility aid, caregivers should research upright walkers for seniors. Upright walkers help users maintain self-mobility, are adjustable for users’ comfort, and sturdy enough to deter fall-related injuries.
Ultimately, upright walkers increase independence and can help caregivers trim their responsibilities list. For instance, with an upright walker at these seniors’ ready access, caregivers no longer need to wheel these elderly loved ones from place to place in a standard wheelchair.
Be in the driver’s seat of your physical and mental health
You’re in a better position to take care of others when you are physically sound. Maintain your healthy self by eating right and scheduling in-home exercises like planking, sit-ups, and light stretching. Exercises distract you from stress-inducing triggers.
Ensure you sleep adequately (at least seven to eight hours per day). If you are not feeling well, don’t postpone your medical appointments. Remember, you can always recruit a substitute caregiver to relieve you of your duties as you seek medical care.
To maintain mental fitness, engage in stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, reading, mindfulness, and breathing exercises. These activities help you relax whenever you feel stressed. When all else fails, you could also consider talking to a trained professional if caregiving is stretching you thin.
Surround yourself with a support system
While you may require help with your physical caregiving responsibilities, emotional support is vital. Numerous hospitals, religious groups, and healthcare plans host caregiver support groups. Support groups provide you with a platform to vent your feelings, share ideas, and interact with persons undergoing the same hardships as you.
If you’re working with a tight schedule or aren’t comfortable with in-person meetings, you can join online care support groups. Just like physical groups, online groups provide an opportunity for you to ask for help in handling physically and emotionally-demanding tasks. It’s a platform that helps you acknowledge that there are thousands of people out there undergoing the same situation as you.
You can take advantage of online resources (videos and presentations) designed to help you tackle your daily caregiving challenges with an increased sense of confidence.
Don’t carry the caregiving burden when you can involve others to help. Ask your friends and family members to assist in duties like household shopping, handling bills, and coordinating medical appointments.
To avoid burnout, make a list of tasks you don’t have time to accomplish. After all, when it comes to caregiving responsibilities, the more, the merrier.
Break away occasionally
Taking a break of 20 minutes to stroll around the neighborhood or talk to a friend can make a significant difference. Stay in touch with your family and friends, and participate in activities that you enjoy with your loved ones.
As you take care of others, don’t forget about yourself. You are a vital resource, too. Observe the self-care tips above for a much-needed dose of self-care. If you feel like the tasks at hand are too overwhelming for you, don’t shy away from recommending alternatives like assisted living facilities and home health services.