Dealing With the Stress of Eldercare
Frustration is an emotion that those caring for their aged loved ones often experience, but it’s only one of many such emotions. Resentment, anger, and grief are other emotions that caregivers feel.
You might feel resentment at all of the changes in your life – anger from feeling helpless to stop your parent’s diminishing health and grief over the loss of balance in the relationship.
You’ve gone from child to parent. Many caregivers feel guilty for having these emotions, but need to know that they’re a normal response to a difficult circumstance. Caring for an elderly parent can often introduce chaos into what was once an orderly, peaceful lifestyle.
The demands and pressures can mount on a daily basis as your loved ones continues to decline. It’s a responsibility of gigantic proportions and there must be a way for the caregiver to relieve stress or it will lead to burnout.
Taking care of a parent is an unfamiliar sea and since there’s often no land in sight, a caregiver can feel like the burden is endless. It doesn’t matter how close you are to your parent and it’s not about love – the strain that taking care of another person’s personal and medical needs can feel like a two-ton block pressing you down.
If you add children to that responsibility, that block suddenly gets much heavier. Depression is common in caretakers and the signs include fatigue, insomnia and mounting frustration.
The depression happens because all too often a caregiver will put the needs and concerns of his or her parent first. The caregiver will often neglect his own health (skipping meals, canceling social outings) in order to be able to be there for their aging parent.
This is a huge mistake, and in the long run can have consequences on your mental, emotional and physical health. If you are a caretaker, you must put yourself first. You have to find a way to make sure that you get your needs met – and you especially need time off alone.
You need to do something that relaxes you and doesn’t demand any of your physical or mental resources. If you don’t have anyone in your family that can step in and give you a break, then hire someone – but take that break.
Be sure that you deal with whatever you’re feeling about the situation. It’s okay to feel what you feel. Emotions are just your personal feelings and shouldn’t be labeled as bad or good. They simply are what you feel in a given moment. Don’t be too hard on yourself emotionally.
Find a support group that you can share the emotional and mental burden of being a caregiver with. You’d be surprised at how much stress can be lightened by belonging to a group that knows what you’re going through. Get plenty of rest. Not getting enough sleep only makes a difficult circumstance feel much worse.