Making the decision to be a caregiver for an aging family member or working for an agency is a big responsibility. Your important position will bring you rewarding moments, but it can also bring you times of demanding work and you might become stressed. You have a job to perform, so understanding when you are getting burned out and finding someone to relieve your position is just as important as the position itself.
Becoming a caregiver, most often, will require you to make sacrifices in your own personal life and those adjustments can be a stressful time all in itself. A caregiver is usually in place to take care of someone who is ill and needs around the clock care. If you become to overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed, you can become ill yourself; therefore, becoming unable to care for the senior that needs you.
If you start to experience anxiety, irritability, depression, fatigue, or overreacting to small things that you normally wouldn’t is a sign of stress. You need to be able to recognize the signs of caregiver burn out or stress and have a back-up plan for assistance. A rotating schedule with other family members to help with the caregiving duties is a good plan. That way, each family member will know when it is there time to give care to a senior family member and can plan their schedule around this time. If you are doing the bulk of the caregiving duties, you need to let others know that you will need breaks. Don’t be afraid to be assertive when asking for help.
Learning to know when you need a break will be beneficial, not only to you, but to the senior that you are caring for. Sometimes the situation of needing a caregiver for an aging family member comes on suddenly, but in the event that it is a planned transition, you need to set the parameters for care in the beginning and hold everyone accountable for their share of the caregiving duties.
Some of the ways you can eliminate cornering yourself into a stressful situation are to speak up when you need help. Not everyone is going to recognize the signs that you are becoming stressed so you need to have open communication about needing a break. Maybe you plan to have several family members helping with the caregiving duties. One person can be scheduled to take the senior family member to doctor appointments and run errands; another might be responsible for grocery shopping and meal preparation for the week; and another might take on the responsibility of paying monthly bills and handling the finances. You must also know when it’s okay to say yes to help–given the person offering the help is a trustworthy and reliable caregiver.
Caregiving responsibilities and the joy you can bring to a senior family member are very rewarding. You want to keep this a positive experience for everyone involved. You must understand the warning signs of caregiver stress and know when to ask for help.