How to Deal with Caregiver Burnout, Toxic Parents & More

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:10
Learn how to take care of yourself while caring for an elderly parentBeing a caregiver for an aging parent is nothing short of a full-time job. When you're not juggling your other responsibilities, it can feel like every waking moment is...
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Being a caregiver for an aging parent is nothing short of a full-time job. When you’re not juggling your other responsibilities, it can feel like every waking moment is a round-the-clock effort to make sure that your elderly parent’s physical and emotional needs are met. What happens when your needs aren’t being met, though? Also known as caregiver burnout, the feeling of being completely drained and exhausted can be a very overwhelming aspect of caregiving—but you don’t have to deal with it alone. We’re here to help you navigate the most common struggles that parental caregiving can bring, including burnout and toxic behavior from elderly parents.

Things You Should Know

  • Reach out to a friend or loved one and see if they can help you with your caregiving tasks, such as cooking a meal.
  • Get in touch with your state’s Area Agency on Aging to see if you qualify for free respite care. Use Eldercare Locator to find the nearest agency.
  • Contact a respite care provider to get short-term care for your elderly parent while you get a chance to recharge.
  • Make your day-to-day schedule more manageable by creating a list of realistic goals.
Section 1 of 4:

Ways to Deal with Caregiver Burnout

  1. Step 1 Ask for help with the most challenging aspects of caregiving.
    Take a moment to pinpoint the most difficult tasks you have to do as a caregiver for your elderly parent, like cooking meals, assisting with bathing, managing medications, or something else entirely. Ask a trusted friend or loved one if they could lend a hand with these tasks to help make your daily workload a bit less overwhelming.[1]
    • “Hey sis, would you be comfortable taking over mom’s bathing routine tomorrow night? I have a lot on my plate right now and it would be a really big help.”
    • “If you have any extra time this week, would you be okay with making a casserole for me and my mom? I would appreciate it so much.”
  2. Step 2 Take advantage of free resources.
    Getting extra help can seem impossible if you’re operating on a tight budget, but there’s more non-profit and government-funded assistance available than you might expect. Here are a few options to consider if you live in the United States:
    • Contact your state’s Area Agency on Aging to see if you qualify for free respite care. Check Eldercare Locator to see where your nearest agency is.
    • Apply for a government program if your elderly loved one doesn’t have good health insurance (Medicare) or if you don’t make a lot of money yourself (Medicaid).[2]
    • Contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at 877-222-8387 if your elderly parent served in the military at one point. The VA may be able to help financially.
    • Look for benefit programs your elderly loved one might qualify for with the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp service.[3]
  3. Step 3 Join a caregiving support group.
    You’re not alone in your caregiver burnout struggles—there are plenty of people who feel the exact same way and can empathize with your experiences. Visit your local caregiver support group for the opportunity to feel heard, supported, and understood.[4]
    • Check Eldercare Locator to see if there any support groups in your area.
    • Join a digital support group on Facebook like Caring for Elderly Parents and Caregivers Connect.
    • Join a support group that caters to specific communities, like caregivers of parents with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Click here to see which of these specialized support groups are in your area.
  4. Step 4 Reach out to a respite care provider.
    Respite care makes caregiving easier by allowing you to give yourself time to recharge and rekindle your energy. Depending on your personal situation, respite care can involve another caregiver taking over for a few hours at home, or your parent being transferred to an assisted living facility for a short period of time.[5]
    • Click here to find a respite care provider in your area.
  5. Step 5 Create a list of realistic goals for yourself.
    Write down everything you need to get done, organizing the tasks by priority (high priority vs. low priority). Then, take the bigger, more time-consuming items on the list and break them into smaller tasks. Whenever possible, try to lump your tasks into a regular routine so they’re easier to manage.[6]
    • For example, you might put high-priority tasks at the top of your checklist, like taking your parent to the doctor or giving them a bath. Less important tasks like doing laundry or shopping for groceries can be pushed off to another day.
  6. Step 6 Practice acceptance exercises to make your situation feel more tolerable.
    It’s completely normal, valid, and understandable to feel negative when you’re experiencing caregiver burnout—the key is embracing and accepting these feelings rather than pretending that they don’t exist. Here are a few strategies to help you accept your circumstances and push forward:[7]
    • Share how you’re feeling with a trusted friend or loved one
    • Jot down your feelings in a journal
    • Think about how a loved one or role model might handle your current situation
  7. Step 7 Write out the positive impacts your caregiving has.
    As challenging as it can be some days, ask yourself how your caregiving has helped your loved one. How has your assistance and support benefitted them? What difference have you made in your elderly parent’s life? Reminding yourself of your personal impact may be helpful when you’re struggling with burnout.[8]
    • “It’s because of me that mom is able to have 3 solid meals each day and sleep with a roof over her head.”
    • “I help dad do tasks he wouldn’t otherwise be able to do himself.”
    • It’s also helpful to remember that your loved one is probably very grateful for all of the help and care you’ve provided them with, even if they can’t express it in an effective way.
  8. Step 8 Meet up with a friend or loved one at least once per week.
    Whether it’s a walk around the park or an afternoon at the coffee shop, take some time to socialize and catch up with the important people in your life. It can be hard to make time for yourself (and your social life) when you’re struggling with caregiver burnout, so regular outings can be a big help. You could:[9]
    • See a movie
    • Go shopping
    • Visit the spa
    • Play your favorite sport
  9. Step 9 Visit your doctor to make sure you’re staying healthy.
    It can be challenging to stay on top of your own health when you’re constantly worrying about someone else’s. Make sure to visit your doctor regularly to ensure that you’re staying in good shape.[10]
    • Taking time to exercise and eat a healthy diet can make a big difference in your long-term health.
  10. Step 10 Vent about your struggles with a licensed professional.
    A licensed social worker or therapist can listen to your struggles and provide helpful advice as you work your way through the daily challenges of caregiving. Don’t be afraid to share what’s on your mind—in fact, meeting with a mental health professional is an excellent way to stay on top of your mental health.[11]
    • Don’t feel like seeing someone in person? Online therapy services like Talkspace and Cerebral allow you to meet with a licensed professional from the comfort of your home.
  11. Step 11 Discuss long-term care options with your family.
    It’s completely understandable if at-home care just doesn’t seem feasible anymore, especially if your elderly parent is struggling with a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia. In any case, your parent’s health and well-being—as well as your own—need to be considered in the final decision. Sit down with your parent and other loved ones and go over the different types of long-term care options out there, like:
    • At-home services: If you’re on Medicaid, the program might pay for your parent to receive respite care, nursing care, and other similar services.
    • Accessory Dwelling Unit: If your elderly parent is still somewhat independent, invite them to live in a separate section of your home (also known as an “in-law apartment”).
    • Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC): CCRCs include a wide variety of different senior living facilities, like apartments, nursing homes, and assisted living.
    • Hospice: Hospice care offers comfortable living arrangements for individuals suffering from a long-term, terminal illness (like late-stage dementia).[12]
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Section 2 of 4:

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

  1. Step 1 You feel exhausted and irritable.
    A candle burned at both ends, a phone that’s completely out juice… these are just a couple of ways to describe the complete and total exhaustion you might be feeling related to caregiving. This bone-deep feeling of being drained is a tell-tale sign that you’re feeling burned out from the toll caregiving has taken on your life.[13]
  2. Step 2 You spend less time with your friends and loved ones.
    Your routine revolves completely around your parent, whether it’s feeding them, bathing them, or just providing them with all-around care. Because of this, your social life falls to the wayside, and you don’t get to see any of your friends or loved ones as much.[14]
  3. Step 3 Your health starts to suffer.
    Sure, everyone gets sick once in a while—but your health tends to be consistently poor when you’re suffering from caregiver burnout. Every time a new illness goes around, you always find yourself catching it.[15]
  4. Step 4 You feel negatively towards your elderly parent.
    This can be one of the worst aspects of caregiver burnout—for all of the love and care you put into your parent’s well-being, you still feel easily irritated and exasperated by many things they do. The spark of satisfaction that caregiving once gave you is nonexistent, and you don’t know how to cope with it.[16]
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Section 3 of 4:

Causes of Caregiver Burnout

  1. Step 1 Unfair expectations and requests
    Caregivers undeniably have to juggle many hats—because of this, it’s easy for caregivers to set the bar too high for themselves. In other cases, elderly parents can expect too much of the caregiving children, which can easily lead to feelings of burnout.[17]
    • Caregiver burnout is compounded when a parent is struggling with a challenging illness like dementia.
  2. Step 2 A diminished sense of control
    Even if they’re in charge of their parent’s care, a caregiver might feel helpless when they don’t have enough money saved up or time in the day to give their parent the amount of care they’d like.[18]
  3. Step 3 Role confusion
    Even for adults, it can be a bizarre experience to suddenly play a different role in their parent’s life. As they start caring for their parent on a personal level, it becomes harder for them to understand and delineate the role they’ve taken up.[19]
  4. Step 4 Little to no privacy
    When other people are popping in and out to provide assistance here and there, the caregiver may feel like they don’t have a space of their own.[20]
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Section 4 of 4:

How to Deal with Toxic Elderly Parents

  1. Step 1 Set clear boundaries with them.
    Let your parent know what you are and are not comfortable with, and say “no” if they ask you to do something that’s out of your comfort zone (or capability).[21] Ultimately, focus on stating your needs and wants in a very respectful, direct, and clear way. Your parent might feel hurt, but that’s going to be part of the process.
    • Setting boundaries is really about understanding your needs and expressing them in a way that isn’t aggressive or passive-aggressive. You need to do what you think is right within the context of your obligation to your parent.
  2. Step 2 Step away and breathe if the situation gets too tense.
    If your elderly parent says something rude or otherwise hurtful, excuse yourself and take a moment to breathe instead of engaging with them or saying something hurtful in return.[22] Here are some tips to help you calm down in the moment:
    • Say a calming phrase over and over again, like “you’re okay”
    • Visualize something that calms you down, like a beach or forest[23]
    • Count up to 10 (or a higher number) in your head[24]
  3. Step 3 Practice compassion detachment.
    “Compassion detachment” revolves around stepping back and analyzing situations logically rather than approaching them in an emotionally-charged way.[25] Use compassion detachment to put a healthy distance between yourself and your parent so you’re less affected by what they say and do.[26]
  4. Step 4 Evaluate if personal caregiving is the best option for you and your parents.
    Take a closer look at your own mental and emotional well-being—are you capable of juggling the stressors that come with caring for a toxic parent?[27] It’s completely valid if the answer to that question is “no,” just as it’s valid for you to ask a loved one or another experienced provider to step in and care for your parent. Some long-term care options to consider include:
    • Group living communities
    • In-law apartments
    • CCRCs (like apartments, assisted living homes, and nursing homes)
    • Hospice[28]
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