Life expectancy has nearly tripled and it’s expected that the world’s population of adults over the age of 60 will double by the year 2050. Adults living longer is an amazing feat and it provides opportunities to celebrate our loved ones for many years to come.
The increasing population of older adults also signifies an expansion of seniors who will at some point require a form of care. Often, this comes in the form of an adult child serving as their parent’s senior caregiver.
Caregiving is a rewarding experience that requires bravery, selflessness, and unconditional love for a parent or relative and can allow adult children to connect with their parents on a new level. However, when combined with careers, family life, self care, and the other demands of one’s personal life, caregiving can take a toll on mental health.
When providing care for a loved one, it can be challenging to balance caregiving responsibilities and a personal life. As loved ones are often living with their caregivers, it can also be hard for you to find personal space to retreat to when you need a break. By planning a method for balancing your caregiving responsibilities with your personal life, you can avoid caregiver burnout, depression, and other health problems.
As a senior living provider serving Atlanta, Georgia, Brickmont Assisted Living values our caregivers and understands they are doing work that has a deep, meaningful purpose in our communities. We are sharing tips for senior caregivers to help you balance your caregiving responsibilities while still having opportunities to take time for yourself.
What Is Caregiver Burnout And Guilt?
Whether you’ve been a senior caregiver for some time or have suddenly become your loved one’s primary caregiver after an emergency, it’s important to understand the effects of caregiver burnout and guilt. While it might seem like an easy feat to jump straight into your caregiving journey, there are many mental and physical health factors to consider, especially if you don’t have a set plan.
Caregiver burnout and caregiver guilt are two common results of the stress, demands, and family complications that can come up while providing care and support to your loved one.
Caregiver burnout comes from both a lack of outside support and unrealistic expectations of the journey ahead. Essentially, this is when a caregiver becomes overwhelmed by the surprising and unexpected number of tasks that must be accomplished each day without extra assistance.
Caregiver guilt is a bit more complicated, with a wide range of origins for guilty emotions regarding:
Feeling as though you’re providing inadequate care
Feeling like you aren’t rising to the occasion as a caregiver
Feeling like you’ve neglected your own self-care
Feeling like you’ve ignored and neglected other relatives or relationships
Having negative feelings towards others, including the person requiring your care and other family members who don’t serve as a caregiver
Understanding the roots of these common caregiving side effects can allow you to prepare yourself for any uncomfortable feelings that could arise in the future. As your loved one ages, it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected at any time, and the best way to do so is to plan how you’ll be balancing your responsibilities. If done properly, you’ll be able to get an idea of ways to incorporate time for your own self-care needs, personal and social life, family responsibilities, career, and more.
Balancing Responsibilities and Planning Ahead
The first step to balancing your personal life and responsibilities as a senior caregiver is to plan ahead. Be realistic about the tasks and duties that you have in order to give yourself a general idea of what lies ahead.
Organize each responsibility by daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. For example, if your loved one relies on you to take them to recurring doctor’s appointments on a specific date each month, you can prioritize this task as “monthly.” Daily tasks could include assisting your loved one with personal grooming and hygiene, preparing meals, and a regular exercise routine to keep your loved one active.
When organizing tasks, make notes of what can be done at home (cooking, personal care, cleaning) and what needs to be done outside of the home to help you plan out appointments and errands. This can also make it simple to combine outside activities as often as possible so you’re not running back and forth unnecessarily. For example, if your loved one has a doctor appointment, plan to also do your grocery shopping while you’re already out of the house.
Make Time For Yourself
As a caregiver, it’s likely that you don’t get much time to yourself. Taking care of a loved one can be extremely time-intensive, so finding time to relax can be challenging. It’s important for senior caregivers to take some time to rest because it helps avoid caregiver burnout and allows you to recharge your caregiving energy.
If you enjoy reading, read a few chapters of your favorite book while your family member takes a nap. If you prefer to listen to music, try having some music playing in the background while you spend time with them. Our team at Brickmont Assisted Living knows that even the smallest of things can help improve your mood, which is essential when caring for older adults.
It’s also crucial to ask for help when you need some relief, feel overwhelmed, or simply want to take time to focus on self-care and relaxation. Many times, caregivers can rely on friends and other family members to assist them in providing care for the senior in their life. Talk with them to see if they can help you for a few hours while you rest or perhaps get a few errands done.
If you prefer to have some help while you’re present, try to split up the tasks so that you can finish everything sooner and focus on your loved one. It’s very challenging for only one person to provide care for a loved one, so take advantage of the chance whenever you have the opportunity.
Whether you want to run errands or spend time with family and friends for a few hours, Respite Care and Adult Day Care services are also great options when you need a break. At Brickmont Assisted Living, our Respite Care and Adult Day Care services work to provide a comforting, engaging environment full of specialized activities. Guests in each service program are treated as residents in our community, and have access to all of our premier amenities, including fun day-trips, dining services, activity groups, and more!
Live in the Moment
When caring for the senior in your life, you may begin to realize that this situation is very long-term, which can be daunting for many. Although you and others will be providing care for a prolonged period, try to focus on the now. When caregivers only see the long-term picture, they forget about all of the meaningful moments that happen every day.
Take a few minutes to cherish the time that you’re spending with your family member and think of it as a blessing, rather than an obligation. This is your opportunity to understand your loved one’s wants, needs, dreams, and wishes and help them achieve their goals.
Join a Support Group
When things begin to get hard, it can be helpful to join a support group that is made up of other individuals as senior caregivers. Groups allow members to speak about their experiences, relate to them in ways that others can’t, and learn about important topics in caregiving.
If you prefer not to join a group, try setting up a meeting with a few friends every week or so. Just having someone to confide in and talk to about your experiences can help to provide some relief.
Reflect on Your Journey
Throughout your caregiving journey, you should take time to reflect on the exciting experiences, friendly conversations, and tear-jerking moments that you’ve shared with your loved one. It can be easy to lose sight of the meaningful part of your relationship when you’re overwhelmed with caregiving duties.
When you’re having a hard time, remember that you’ve learned a great deal, made a difference in your loved one’s life, and you became a better person for doing it. Think of all of the ways that being a senior caregiver has strengthened your relationship with your loved one by allowing you to spend meaningful time together, rely on one another, and create an incredibly strong bond.
Brickmont Assisted Living believes that caregivers are the driving force behind an exceptional senior living experience. We want to highlight all of the family caregivers that go above and beyond every day to provide excellent care for the person they love.
If you’re interested in learning about Brickmont Assisted Living and the senior care services that we provide throughout the Atlanta area, contact a member of our team today!
Updated March 2023