- Written by Madhavi Vemireddy Madhavi Vemireddy
Being appointed a caregiver for an older adult can change one’s life completely, whether that person is a parent or you are not related.
The needs of aging adults exponentially increase as they grow older. Often, the person in charge of their care is simply an untrained family member who is given the role because of proximity and nothing more.
There’s a distinct learning curve to caregiving that must be navigated in a short time as the needs of the person you are caring for increase.
People in midlife often deal with being part of the “sandwich generation,” caring for children and aging parents simultaneously.
Stress and burnout are bound to occur amid a caregiver situation. Here are five tips to help a caregiver cope with the stress of this challenging situation.
1. Recognize the signs. It’s a well-known platitude that the first step to getting help is admitting you have a problem. The same holds for recognizing when you’ve reached burnout level.
Fatigue is the first “symptom.” To keep up with a grueling schedule, caregivers are often not allowing themselves enough sleep. This will eventually catch up to a person, leading to other health issues like depression, anxiety, and susceptibility to illnesses.
It can help caregivers to have an accountability partner they trust, someone who will remind them to get proper sleep and take care of themselves.
2. Create personalized action plans. Every caregiver’s journey is different. You may live with the person you care for. Maybe your loved one is in assisted living, and you are working in tandem with a care team.
Whatever your situation may be, a personalized action plan can help you stay organized and on task with decision making. Your personalized plan can include daily schedules, end-of-life plans, and the person’s wishes.
Documenting needed information and organizing thoughts and needs can alleviate anxiety about the unknown.
3. Products for daily tasks. When you are thrust into a caregiver role without having experience in a professional sense, you may not be aware of the myriad products available to assist with the activities of daily living. Many of these items are available to rent through durable medical equipment (DME) companies or are covered by Medicare.
Products include medical alert buttons/necklaces, chair and bed alarms (to prevent falls), adaptive clothing, and more professional-level devices like Hoyer lifts and sit-to-stand lifts.
Take advantage of training offered through DME companies that provide some of the more complicated products, such as lifts. Once a caregiver learns how to use these products appropriately, they can be invaluable (and save your back!).
4. Resources for support. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Caregivers need support. That’s a given. Your local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) may offer support groups, classes, or access to helpful products.
Self-care is a necessity. Something as simple as allowing time for a midday nap or having a visiting nurse come in once a week to give the caregiver a day off can stave off burnout by allowing much-needed rest.
Organizations specific to your loved one’s illness can also offer support in the way of education and direction to assistance.
5. Set clear boundaries. It can be easy for a caregiver to feel taken advantage of, especially if they have siblings or other family members who are not participating in the caregiving as much as they maybe should be.
When it is clear that regular caregiving is necessary, clear boundaries need to be put in place from the outset. These include when the caregiver will be available and when they will not be, how much the caregiver will do in terms of care, and the scope of the job beyond the care of the loved one. Is the caregiver expected to clean the house? Grocery shop?
These are all talking points that need to be explicitly indicated. This can prevent resentment and anger later on.
Caregiving is a challenge many of us will face in the future, as our parents or other loved ones grow older and need more attention. Keeping a plan in place and allowing time to care for yourself will make the experience not fraught with anxiety and stress but with memories made and time spent together.
Madhavi Vemireddy is the COO and cofounder of CareTribe (caretribe.com). This digital platform combines advanced analytics, personalized pathways, and human experts to help people get the support they need for their caregiving journey.