Caretaker Burnout

Caretaker Burnout

Elder Care Strategies Part Three
by Barbara Richardson

You are one of the fine sons, daughters, or grandchildren of the world, willing to take on that task of helping an older relative through the golden years. You are responsible and kind, devoting love and care for your mom, dad or a dear someone.

You are also troubled by it. That is hard to admit, but true. Who has not had a bad day while raising a child? It is not that you do not love and adore the child when a bad day or "year" hits. The same goes for caring for an older adult in your life.

There are many places to go for help and support. At the end of this article you will be able to sigh and hopefully see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Grab a pen and paper or copy them over to the place you stash important stuff you read on The New Homemaker.

Signs of burnout / exhaustion
• Persistent resentment
• Loss of interest in life
• Irritable
• Angry
• Lacking sleep
• Violent feelings
• Seldom feeling appreciated
• Never have time for pleasure
• Guilty if you take time for yourself

Re-evaluating your commitment
First and foremost, you must remember nothing is set in stone. What works for you today may not work for you tomorrow. Stay flexible. Concentrate on today, keeping tomorrow in sight. You can always change your mind. If you find that your decision for one type of care is not practical, go back to the drawing board. You still care for the person you have decided to care for, you just do it differently. Let's look at some of the circumstances that make periodical re-evaluations necessary.

Planning around everyone's needs
[grandmother graphic]
All members of the family are important. If you only plan around the needs of Grandma someone else will suffer. In a family there is constant balancing, so many people to think of. You may have children still at home or those you already raised still needing you. Your spouse needs to remain important and so do you. When you agreed to take care of the older person in your life you committed the entire family. If you are fine with the situation and schedule, super--you should be proud. Skip the next paragraph if you live alone or want to.

If you want to break your back it is your choice, right? However, think of the effect on the entire family unit. Even if you are doing great--is the family? One way to find out is to ask. Hold a family council and welcome input. It is amazing how much you can learn in 20 - 30 minutes about people that you thought you knew. We hold a meeting like this several times a year when we are discussing some big event. I regularly go into these thinking I know what everyone is feeling. I never go away without learning something about one of the kids or my husband.

You vs. you
You are one of the people you need to care for. It is too common that the caregiver is not cared for. It seems to be our nature to nurture everyone except ourselves. If you feel exhausted, chances are you are the individual neglecting you.

Taking a back seat in life so you can offer someone else the front seat is not a healthy goal. If you have ever been in the back seat of anything you know the view can be tiring. To sit only in the front is not fair either. On the road of life-take turns. You will need to give Grandma some of your time and you some of your time. You can give yourself and others in your life the front seat at times and not be leaving Grandma or them without a ride.
On other days, you may be the one in the back; it will not feel as unfair or tiring knowing you get the front tomorrow. That is how you avoid burnout. That is how you save you from you.

The burdens we place on ourselves usually are the ones that give us the most strife. Have you demanded too much from yourself?
Would you impose the same requirements on a dear friend?
You are your own friend.

Ten (well, eleven) signs that it is time to reevaluate
  1. Chewing your food as you look for the car keys seems normal.
  2. You haven't worn anything ironed in over a year.
  3. "Hello" and "Goodbye" is considered one on one conversation.
  4. Your dog thinks you are a burglar when you come home.
  5. The letter carrier sees you as much as your family.
  6. Christmas decorations are out, but December is three months away!
  7. You wonder how Noah's family didn't throw him off of the boat.
  8. You take a two-minute shower and apologize for taking so long.
  9. Your parrot says, "Aghhhhhh, I Can't Take This Anymore."
  10. You secretly understand the statement, " Only the good die young."
  11. You actually thought this list was funny.

Places to go for help
There are some good places to go for help on and off line.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAoA) listed in the city or county government sections of the telephone directory under Aging or Social Services. Many services provided through the AAoA will help ease the load you carry. Some of the areas of support are: homemaker or home-health aide services, home-delivered meals, transportation assistance, home modification and repair and legal assistance. They can help you find additional help such as transportation and chore services, home repair and other support services. AAoA can direct you to resources and programs available in your community. To see the online AAoA Directory and find your state, try the Area Agency on Aging website.

Good luck and chin up. While you're looking up, take a peek at the sky. Marvelous, isn't it?

Barbara Richardson is 37 years old and lives on 13 acres in Indiana with her husband and three children, and a dog and cat. She loves fishing, cartooning, writing, animals, cooking, bread baking, and her family, not specifically in that order. Barbara says, "I am proud to be a stay at home and a wife. I take pride as well in living within my income and not being a slave to debt."

Related links:

  • The Complete Eldercare Planner is an invaluable guide to all of the issues surrounding care of your elderly. [BOOK]
  • Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents is another reference aimed less at taking care of your loved one than making sure you don't drive yourself round the bend in the process. [BOOK]
  • Caregiver's Reprieve is subtitled "A Guide to Emotional Survival When You're Caring for Someone You Love." It's out of print but worth looking for. [BOOK]
  • helps others cope with the demands of caregiving. Ask a caregiver a question online. [REMOTE]
  • National Caregivers Association [REMOTE]
  • The Home Care/Hospice Agency Locator
    contains the most comprehensive database of more than 28,100 home care and hospice agencies. Use this resource to find all the agencies in any particular area of the country. [REMOTE]
  • You may want to subscribe to Today's Caregivers, a magazine full of helps and understanding. $18.00 for one year. Here is the mailing address: Today's Caregiver Magazine, P.O. Box 21646, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33335 . Phone # (954) 462-7511 or (800) 829-2734. You can peek at their online edition at [REMOTE]
  • AGENET: Many helps for the elderly and caregivers. [REMOTE]


Guest's picture

After watching a show on tv today, in which Cindy Countess was placed in prison for the murder of her elderly mom, I was horrified. As crazy as it sounds Cindy Countess, i feel should not be in prison. Cindy who was an actress, model who lived in California with her husband suffered bouts of depression.

Cindy,s elderly parents lived in VA where one of her sisters lived and that sister took care of the parents who were both sick. After Cindy's Dad died Cindy left her husband in Ca, so that she could return home to take care of her mom who suffered from mental illness and was now sufferning from dementia. Cindy took care of her mom for 4years.

The rest of Cindys story can be found if you google her name

It was tragic what happened, however Cindy simply was given paxil and not followed by a doctor. Cindy who never committed a crime in her life is sittin in prison. She is very sick.

I think Cindy could be any one of us who takes care of someone and is competly burnt out.

I encourge everyone to read Cindys story.

Belle Brown's picture

How about the care taker who is not related and has a client who lives in same home. CT works many more hours than 'Authorized By the State' on taking care of client who has underlying dementia and several other health issues. 3 visits to the hospital and client can't pay for his own prescriptions or doctor care taker has to pay so she doenst get charged for neglect...
IHSS has refused to place cient into Respes so care taker can get sleep...client keeps care taker in shallow sleep...CT has to get up when client gets up to urinate at night or when client "walks house at night" - has opened sliding glass doors to go out before being ushered back to bed. (sleep walking - or doesn't remember why he was up.
Client has no family on West Coast and no friends to cover and since he is high risk, and State only pays minimal hours out of the many hours actually worked by CT...can't afford to bring another person in to sit with him.
Any suggestions?
His family says to just place him into a convelescent home, whereas client says he'd rather die.
I'm not able to continue care taking if I don't get a break from him so I can get a full nights rest and catch up on two months sleep.
Please bring in some insight.
Location is California.

loladee's picture

Cindy is my sister. She actually lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. She spent the better part of 5-6 years in Va...helping me with our parents, and their many health issues. She was the only one who would alter her life to help me, knowing I am the oldest sibling, and not well either. We were both sick ourselves. When she was not here, I often had, not just our parents..but a chronically ill husband too, who died in 1999 of COPD. The death of our mother was a horrible event, neither of us will ever get over. It has all been pretty much a nightmare ever since. The horrible tragedy has taken a great toll, on Cindy, and on me. She still grieves all the time, altho her memories of the sad event are few. I fear the worst may not yet be over for her tho. Her incarceration has had a big impact on her physical, and mental health. Sadly, She will have been in prison, for 6 years, the end of Sept.09. I fear, if something good does not happen for her soon, the poor shape she is in...she may well die where she Prison.

Belle Brown's picture

My client's family and friend decided that he was too much of a finacial burden to me and talked him into moving from my residence into another residence where he will shortly either be placed into a nursing care facility or die because he cannot be on his own.
He and IHSS owe me in excess of $17000 in back wages. The States are making it difficult for caregivers to be caregivers because they are cutting back on 'paper-approved' hours while not cutting back on actual hours. They have done totally away with paying any medical benefits for their full time workers.
By the time the baby-boomers are turning 65, most caregivers will be long gone and baby boomers will be herded into State run institutions just like in Arnold Schwartzeneggars Austria. Fact, not fiction.
Euthanasia will also be a common practice because the elderly are NOT getting full medical coverage they paid for throughout their years...because American Insurance companies are saying "No" to many medical procedures they approve for the younger generations.
Where God says to HONOR the elderly...our country is joining many european countries in doing away with the elderly.
Bad choices.
It takes a whole lot to be a Caregiver. It is time to stand up and become a voice. Baby-boomers...they've spent your care won't have a choice to remain in your homes to live out your days if you don't stand up and be a voice against this. Where would you want to spend your last days? Take a visit to Austria and see Arnold Schwartzeneggars plan for the States.
The elder facilities in his country Austria are worse than our institutions for the insane here.
Get ready...because you are letting it happen. Stand up for today's elderly and Caregivers, because tomorrow is too late.

Nomi's picture

:( BUT noone knows the toil it takes on a person, unless you have done it. Its even worse if you are sick yourself. Most normal people love their parents, and all they have done raising them. We do it out of love. BUT it is fraught with pitfalls. However finding help when you are caregiving, is not easy to find....especially if you have limited, or no financial resourses. Few people are willing to take over that care, or even help the ones who are doing it. It can be quite easy to monday morning quaterback, ones who have done this care, and a tragedy happens...but most often they wouldn't think of being in your place. I can easily see why sometimes the best way can be a Nursing Facility...these peopke are skilled. Sometimes that is also the safest means for the elderly person, as well.

Mary Helen's picture

Caring for elderly family members is tough enough when those family members are cooperative. It's a labor of love when you love them and they are grateful. It's a little more difficult when they are uncooperative, and terribly difficult when the family member is terribly difficult.

The worst, however, is when other members of the family Monday morning quarterback, or second guess. Yes, flowers are welcome, yes, it is OK to reduce clutter in the interest of safer environments. Yes, we've done the homework on how to pay for this medical care and some of it's coming out of our own pocket.It's not helpful for other family members to interject their "opinions", never having been on the front lines.
Would your like to spot me and take over? No..I didn't think so.
Keep your opinions to yourself until you've emptied a few bedpans yourself. I've done it for 3 family members. Comfortable to critisize from the sidelines, having not gotten your hands dirty.

Learned my techniques at the knee of my Mother. Now I care for her, and family members put their unwelcome two cents in. Unless you want to get down in the trenches...leave well enough alone.

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