According to a recent study, around one in five Americans, or roughly 53 million adults, are caregivers. Of that group, two in ten report feeling alone, and four in ten describe their role as highly stressful.
Are you included in these categories? While caring for an aging parent can be rewarding, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the constant obligations. When this happens, caregiver burnout occurs.
Today, we’re diving into this issue and sharing a few ways you can reclaim your emotional health and relieve yourself of guilt as you navigate this complex journey.
What Causes Caregiver Burnout?
It’s no secret that the caregiver role is demanding. Shouldering responsibility for your aging parents’ care can create anxiety, fear, and pressure that wasn’t there before. Over time, the physical and emotional stress can lead to burnout.
A few of the sources of tension include:
- Bitterness over your loss of personal time and space
- The unearthing of past hurts and arguments
- Comparing yourself to other caregivers
- Juggling your own mental, emotional, and physical needs along with those of your parents
As you navigate these complex emotions and the stress of caring for elderly parents, you might also experience feelings of guilt about elderly parents. You may feel as though you should accept and embrace this responsibility without reservation, and any feelings to the contrary are shameful.
While this can be an unnerving realization, rest assured that it’s completely normal. Yet, you don’t have to wallow in the burnout. Let’s take a look at a few key ways to relieve yourself of the pressure you’re feeling.
Ways to Deal With Caregiver Burnout and Guilt
When you assume the role of caregiver, your own life doesn’t stop. You still have obligations at work and home, along with other people, such as your spouse or children, who need your support.
Thus, it doesn’t take much before you start feeling stretched too thin. You may feel you’re losing patience with an elderly parent. Any time you step away from your duties to attend to a personal matter, you might start to feel guilty of neglect. Next, let’s discuss how to get over the guilt and find a much-needed balance.
Acknowledge the Difficulty of the Job
As a caregiver, it’s easy to minimize the monumental role you play in your parents’ life. You might see your help now as minuscule compared to how much they’ve helped and supported you over the years.
Yet, this type of comparison can exacerbate any feelings of caregiver guilt you’re already experiencing. It makes it difficult to break away from the 24/7 demands of the job, requiring you to continue at a pace that’s impossible to maintain.
Start by acknowledging just how important and difficult caregiving is. When you do, you free yourself up to feel all of the emotions around it. Otherwise, downplaying it can cause you to push your resentment further and further down until you reach a boiling point.
Maintain Your Social Connections
It might sound impossible, but taking time for yourself is critical to maintaining your health. While you might not be able to book a two-week spa vacation, you should still make time to foster your other social connections.
After all, you might be a parent, child, sibling, spouse, or best friend to someone. While it’s true that there will be periods of your life where you have to focus a majority of your attention on one person, you can’t neglect everyone else in the process.
At first, you might feel bad about taking mini-breaks to devote time to your other loved ones. You might even ask yourself, “Why do I feel guilty for having fun?” Yet, this time away can be like pressing the “reset” button on your mental health.
Set Realistic Goals
It’s never easy to watch a loved one suffer. In your role, you may encounter moments where you feel helpless, or as though you aren’t doing enough. In turn, you put excess pressure on yourself to fully relieve your parents of their pain.
Remember: you are a caregiver, but you are still human. You cannot guarantee a perfect outcome every single time, no matter how valiant of an effort you put forth. That’s why it’s important to set realistic goals for your role, not superhuman ones.
Tolerate Negative Emotions
Do you feel pressured to put on a happy face and sunny disposition every time you perform your caregiving duties? This can lead to a ton of caretaker guilt or self-criticism when you realize that it was mostly for show.
Dreading some parts of caregiving doesn’t mean that you don’t love and respect your parents. It means that you’re completely normal, experiencing a wide range of emotions as all people do.
Want to learn how to avoid feeling guilty? When you give yourself the green light to actually experience those negative emotions, you’re able to identify and deal with them in a more constructive way. In fact, doing so can help you steer clear of caregivers’ “toxic guilt,” where you may end up harboring negative emotions towards the loved ones you’re trying to care for.
Reach Out for Help
There might come a time when your parents’ needs exceed your own capabilities and the support you’re able to give. If this becomes the case, you might feel guilty about reaching out for help. Yet, consider the implications if you let shame or stigma keep you from finding your loved ones the help they need. There’s certainly no guilt in moving away from elderly parents if it means they’ll be in good hands.
Today, there are myriad resources that allow seniors to age gracefully in their own homes. Our premium care services are one example. Our dedicated caregivers are available to provide in-home care for up to 24 hours a day. If you wish to continue as the caregiver, our care managers can support you with caregiver coaching to listen and guide you through the emotional difficulties of providing care for a parent. By partnering with us, you can find the relief that best suits your needs, including personal care, support services, and transportation services.
This way, you can go back to being a cherished family member, spending quality time with your elderly parents while we support you.
Find the Caregiver Support You Need Today
Caregiver burnout is a real condition that usually begins with the best of intentions. Assuming the vital role of caretaker can take a toll on your health, leading to both physical ailments as well as undue feelings of guilt, resentment, and strain.
When you’re ready to make a change, we’d love to help.
We offer professional home health care services tailored around your loved one. Our registered nurses and master’s-level social workers will meet with your family to create a custom care management plan that provides whole-person care. Contact us today to learn more and let’s take this next step together.