Caregiving is a balancing act of career, family, relationships, and numerous other responsibilities. Based on the most recent stats, 7.8 million Canadians aged 15 and older were caregivers in 2018.
Trying to juggle caring for your loved one with everything else you have going on can be physically and mentally exhausting. It also puts you at risk for what’s known as caregiver burnout.
What is caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is defined as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It results from taking on more than you’re able or not getting the help you need.
Like many other caregivers, you may feel guilty taking time for yourself because you feel you should spend it with your elderly or ailing loved one. Chances are you’re also placing unreasonable demands on yourself, as so many family caregivers do because you feel like all of the responsibility of caregiving has to be yours. While these all stem from your love for your parent, it’s important to understand that it can be damaging to your well-being and health if you don’t take action now.
You may be so used to just making it work that you don’t even realize that you may be headed to burning out.
A person experiencing caregiver burnout may:
- Feel tired often
- Suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression
- Feel hopeless and helpless
- Experience irritability and bouts of anger
- Lose interest in the activities they used to enjoy
- Have trouble sleeping
- Withdraw from friends and family
Some people also experience feelings of wanting to hurt themselves and have thoughts of suicide.
How to avoid caregiver burnout
There are things you can do to help you avoid caregiver burnout when caring for an elderly parent or loved one.
Here are some tips.
Educate yourself on your loved one’s illness
If looking after a loved one with an illness, become familiar with the condition and how it manifests so you know what to expect.
You can find information through a healthcare provider or online.
Put together a support team
Put together a support group of relief persons, including a professional caregiver for 4 hours, once or twice per week, or as needed.
A professional caregiver can take on some of the duties of caregiving so you don’t have to do it all. They can also provide respite and spend time with your loved one so you can take some time for yourself.
Find activities the care recipient loves
Putting on their favorite record or movie is a nice distraction for your loved one that will also buy you some time for a break.
That 40-minute long Frank Sinatra record can allow you time for a cup of tea or chat with a friend.
Join a peer support group
Connecting with others in a similar situation can make you feel less alone and allow you the opportunity to talk freely about the issues you’re struggling with without judgement.
You can find one online through the Ontario Caregiver Organization or by calling their helpline at 1-833-416-2273 (CARE).
End of rope support
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and having trouble coping, reach out for help. Caring for a loved one can be incredibly stressful. You don’t need to do it alone.
If you need someone to talk to, visit the Crisis Services Canada website to find local resources and supports.
If you’re thinking about suicide, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645.
If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, call 911 for immediate help.
The experiences and needs of older caregivers in Canada. Paula Arriagada, Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2020001/article/00007-eng.htm
Managing Caregiver Stress. University Health Network. https://www.uhn.ca/PatientsFamilies/Health_Information/Health_Topics/Documents/Managing_Caregiver_Stress_caring_for_a_loved_one.pdf