Caring for the Caregiver

Many baby boomers are learning the true definition of the word caregiver.  As your parents, and in my case grandparents are requiring more than just a quick visit every other day or so.  My grandmother is 96 and lives on her own in the family home I grew up.  That sounds great and trust me it is, but all that is required that goes smoothly can be draining, especially when only a few of many family members help out.  You quickly find yourself stressed, and both mentally and physically drained.

Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves stressors.  Caregivers stress can be particularly damaging, since it is typically a chronic long-term challenge.  If you do not get the physical and emotional support you need, the stress of caregiving leaves you vulnerable to a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, and burnout.  Moreover, when you reach that point, both you and the person you are caring for suffer.

Learning to recognize the signs of caregiver stress and burnout is the first step to dealing with the problem.

Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress:

  • Feeling tired and rundown
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • New or worsening health problems
  • Overreacting to minor nuisances
  • Anxiety, depression, irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling increasingly resentful
  • Cutting back on leisure activities

Common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout:

  • You have much less energy than you once had
  • It seems like you catch every cold or flu that is going around
  • You neglect your own needs, either because you are too busy or you do not care anymore
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
  • You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
  • You feel helpless and hopeless
  • You are increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you are caring for

Taking on all the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a recipe for burnout.  Never hesitate to ask family and friends for help.  Be sure to schedule regular check-ups for yourself to stay on top of lurking health issues.  Be willing to relinquish some control.


Caregiver Guilt

Accepting that your loved one’s life is limited is something that is very difficult to do. Calling hospice is even harder, but as your loved one begins to lose their quality of life, it becomes necessary to make the call. The feelings of guilt or feelings of being an inadequate caregiver often make the call to Hospice delayed longer than it should.

Caregiving is difficult. It is difficult for family and friends, and even more difficult for the person who is receiving care. Once independent, your loved one is now faced with the humiliating position of having others assist with the most intimate tasks. Along with the humiliation comes anger, and tempers sometimes flare, causing everyone involved to say things they really don’t mean.

Guilt has a purpose in life, but guilt is a complicated emotion. We take on the expectations of others, society, friends and family, and of course, on ourselves. Making the decision to call hospice can cause us to “beat ourselves up” even though we can no longer properly care for a loved one.

Once acceptance is reached and the call is made to hospice, you will find that they are willing to offer you their expertise and compassion at a very difficult time for you and your family. The compassionate staff at Hospice Services at Methodist ElderCare will be available to help you and your family at a difficult time for all involved.

Give one of our hospice professionals a call today to assist with making the proper plans for your loved one as they enter their final days. Call 614-451-6700 or go to www.wesleyhospice.com for more information.


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