Believe it or not, we are a nation of caregivers in the United States. According to The National Alliance for Caregiving in partnership with the AARP, 65.7 million of us provide free care to our loved ones. This includes 14.9 million who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Being a caregiver is physically and emotionally challenging, especially when caring for someone with dementia whose needs will continue to escalate and who may not even be able to express their appreciation for your efforts.
Who is the Average Caregiver?
Caregivers are men and women of every color and race. Many are employed, married, and have children still living in the house even as they provide care for a family member. In many cases, an adult child will provide care for an aging parent. This is especially true of a widowed parent who suffers from dementia and cannot safely live on their own. The National Alliance for Caregivers in partnership with the AARP reports that the average caregiver spends 20 hours per week providing care to a loved one.
It is no wonder that many caregivers report high levels of stress and exhaustion. It’s hard enough just to juggle a full time job, spend quality time with your spouse, and raise children…and then add 20 hours of caregiving on top of that!
Many caregivers feel like they are obligated to care for their loved ones. The bond of blood is strong, and children feel indebted to parents for the love and care they received as children. However, caregivers must recognize that they need to take care of themselves too. All too often, a caregiver takes care of everyone but themselves!
Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout is very common among men and women who suddenly find themselves in charge of taking care of Mom or Dad. Over time, they may lose touch with friends or hobbies as they spend more and more time caring for their family member. They may also develop guilt over spending time on themselves or become nervous about leaving a loved one home. Caregiver burnout is especially prominent as a family member’s condition worsens and their needs grow.
Here are some of the most common signs of caregiver burnout:
- Feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, or depression
- Withdrawal from hobbies, friends, and family
- Lower immune system and higher rates of sickness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Less interest and enjoyment of favorite activities
- Resentment toward the person you are caring for
- Constant irritability
- Feelings of loss of control
How to Manage Caregiver Burnout
Many caregivers feel obligated to care for their loved one as long as possible, even when their family member’s care needs become overwhelming. For instance, when someone is in a later stage of dementia, they may constantly wander, become paranoid, have difficulty dressing and bathing, and even demonstrate scary bouts of anger and rage. A caregiver who is employed, raising their own family, and engaged in the community may simply be unable to meet all the care needs of their family member.
There is no shame in admitting that you too deserve a life and cannot spend every hour making sure Mom doesn’t leave the house and get lost.
When caregiver burnout sets in, it is time to begin thinking about alternative living situations for your family member. If your family member’s dementia or Alzheimer’s is clearly getting worse, then you should strongly consider looking into local memory care facilities nearby. These facilities, like Sunshine Care, are designed to provide a safe, warm, and welcoming environment for men and women in different stages of dementia, including the later stages. These facilities can provide constant supervision and assist with activities of daily living for patients who need it.
Join a Support Group
When you are stressed and feeling burned out, it always helps to talk to others who can truly understand your difficulties. If you or your loved one live near Poway, California, we invite you to our free monthly support group sessions at Sunshine Care. This support group was created specifically for family members of those suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s. This warm and welcoming group is a place for you to tell your story, share your worries, ask questions, and get advice from other families in a similar situation.
One of the main goals of our group is to teach families coping skills to reduce the stress of caregiving. We also encourage our families to care for themselves as much as they care for their loved one. Your life is important too, and your family member wouldn’t want you to put it on hold to care for them night and day.
Contact us at (858) 518-8959 to RSVP for our next support group meeting or to learn more about our beautiful, state-of-the-art memory care facility in Poway, California.
Categories: Memory Care