Why Family Caregivers Should Choose Respite Care.
Millions of Americans provide care for a loved one, but even for professionals, caring for an older adult is challenging. For any spouse or family member, assuming the responsibilities of a caregiver can become overwhelming. The risk of caregiver burnout and the need for respite care are real. You should be able to recognize the signs of caregiver burnout, and understand what respite care is, and what it can offer you and your loved one.
Recognizing caregiver burnout.
Most family caregivers find their responsibilities rewarding. But caregiving isn’t easy, and it can take a serious toll on your physical and emotional well-being. In fact, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers are at risk for high levels of stress, anxiety, depression and exhaustion, as well as poor physical health. It can lead to a condition of feeling exhausted, listless and unable to cope. It can cause caregivers to make mistakes that could endanger a loved one, such as mismanaging medication, or lead to unhealthy behaviors like smoking or alcohol abuse.
Researchers at the American Psychological Association have found that among people ages 55 to 75, those who are caregivers experience higher levels of stress hormones. This can lead to high blood pressure and elevated glucose levels, which are contributing factors to hypertension and diabetes. Caregivers also display a weaker immune response than non-caregivers, making them more vulnerable to the flu and other infections. A 2018 study from the insurance firm Genworth found that 41% of family caregivers experienced depression, mood swings and resentment as a result of their labors.
The signs of caregiver burnout.
- Is it hard to stay focused on what you’re doing?
- Do you have difficulty making decisions?
- Have you stopped staying in touch with friends?
- Do you have a hard time falling asleep; or staying asleep?
- Are you feeling overwhelmed?
- Do you feel lonely?
- Are you frustrated by loss of privacy or personal time?
- Have you become edgy or irritable?
- Are you having crying spells?
- Do you feel a strain between work, family and caregiver responsibilities?
- Have you felt ill or had appetite changes?
- Do you feel numb and like you must force yourself to do routine tasks?
- Do you feel guilty about not doing enough? Or resentful for doing too much?
- Are you constantly tired?
Dealing with caregiver burnout.
Caring for a loved one can be time-consuming and leave you feeling like there’s no room in your day for anything else. But to give your loved one the best care possible, you have to take care of yourself first. If you suffer, they will; too. Try these simple steps:
- Stay hydrated to maintain energy, mood and to help you think clearly.
- Eat nourishing food to give you energy and keep your blood sugar and mood stable.
- Start some relaxing rituals to help you fall asleep so you can be well-rested.
- Consider journaling as a way to process your emotions in a safe space.
- Make it a priority to do something fun, relaxing or interesting, just for yourself.
- Stay connected to your friends. Social connections are crucial for good health,
so make a coffee date or go to the movies with a friend.
Step away from caregiving with respite care.
What is respite care? Essentially, it’s care for the caregiver — temporary care of an aging loved one who is ill, handicapped or requires round-the-clock care, providing relief to primary caregivers from the continuing demands of someone with special needs. Respite care may be planned in advance or arranged in an emergency; it can be provided in a private residence or elsewhere, for a few hours or perhaps a couple of weeks.
There are many forms of respite care for caregivers, including siblings or other family members coming to help you out, retaining professional in-home assistance, or bringing your loved one to an adult day center or some other extended stay center. Some senior living communities, like Hamlet at Chagrin Falls, provide respite care for the elderly, allowing a loved one to receive the level of care and comfort available to residents for a defined period of time. These options give you a break from your daily care routine and let you manage other responsibilities, or simply take a brief vacation.
The benefits of respite care.
Renewal. Relaxing is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Relaxing regularly can greatly improve your mood and bring a sense of calm to your life.
Energy. Taking time to do what makes you happy reenergizes your mind and body so you can maintain a healthy balance in your lifestyle and provide good care
Space. Respite care gives you the chance to step away from your role as caregiver for a while.
Pleasure. Caregivers sometimes deny themselves the right to enjoy life because their loved one is struggling. Respite care frees you from that, because you know your loved one is being cared for.
Identity. Respite care helps you maintain your sense of self.
Fresh perspective. Time away from caregiving can let you see things differently and renew your sense of self.
Engagement. Social isolation can take a toll on caregivers. It’s important to see and be active with friends and family.
You’re not alone.
Don’t allow caregiver burnout to claim your physical and mental well-being. Respite care helps you make it through the long haul, and that’s good for both you and your loved one. Caregiver support groups are designed to be safe spaces for you to connect with others who understand what you’re going through. In these groups, you can be honest about your feelings and share your frustrations and experiences with no judgment. Hamlet at Chagrin Falls can assist you with this critical element of taking care of yourself.