Coping with Caregiving for Ailing Elderly Parent
In our Indian communities, caring for elderly parents is considered a core traditional value, that we take pride in. Irrespective of the westernisation of our societies, majority of Indians choose to care for their parents at home. With the age expectancy of our population increasing and the number of children in a family decreasing, the length of time that the parents are cared for and the intense pressure that results out of it, has increased quite significantly.
The demands of being the care giver can be quite high. It needs a lot of dedication, time and effort. The critical challenge, for many, is juggling a busy career, caring for their own kids and home plus the aged parents. The pressure from all sides can lead to a condition known as the Care Giver Burnout, which is defined as the physical and emotional strain that results from taking care of someone. Though it is a rewarding and fulfilling experience for many, it can take a toll on the quality of life for the entire family.
It could result from not sleeping enough, working too much, having too many tasks to attend to and just not having enough time to care for yourself. Add to it the financial implication or the emotional turmoil of watching the parent suffer from a degenerative condition like Alzheimer’s or the unresolved family issues that resurface, these are enough to leave anyone overwhelmed with the situation.
Care Giver Burnout can manifest as
1. Depression – “ I am not interested in any of this”
2. Anxiety – “I cannot step out of the house, what if my mother needs me?”
3. Guilt – “Am I doing enough?”
4. Exhaustion – “I am just too tired to eat”
5. Inability to concentrate – “ I completely forgot my spouse’s birthday”
6. Loss of sleep – “What if she tries to get out of the bed and falls down?”
7. Excessive irritability – “ I just need to be left alone”
Physically, it can be present as headache, body ache, weight loss, weight gain or insomnia. Though our body is capable of handling stress for a short time frame, it loses the fight after some time and the stress starts wreaking havoc on our systems.
This is more common in women, as they are mostly more hands on than men. While men tend to involve with the coordination of care, driving to and from hospitals and taking care of the financial matters, women tend to be the personal care givers and keep the relationship going within the family members, while attending to their own children and maybe careers.
The warning signs of Care Giver Burnout need to be taken seriously as the quality of the care you provide to your parent is directly proportional to your wellbeing. You need to take care of yourself as the stress can only be a detrimental factor in these situations. Let us now, look at a few tips to overcome the Care Giver Burnout.
1. Give yourself priority: You should get away from the guilt and need to understand that you need regular breaks to keep you going. Do things that you love during those breaks. Set your mind free and come back refreshed. Simple relaxation techniques like meditation, going for short walks are great stress busters.
2. Seek Help: There are organized providers that provide at home healthcare. At home healthcare providers, give the same quality of care that you get in hospitals in the comfort and convenience of your homes.
India Home Health Care Pvt. Ltd.(IHHC) is one such provider which takes care of the elderly through a wide range of care plans that is developed and customized to your parent. Dr.Anitha Arockiasamy , Head of Clinical Operations, IHHC points out that “ Over 30% of our patients come to us after trying to care for their parents by themselves.
By the time they approach us, they are exhausted physically and mentally. They feel like they are fighting a losing battle. However, once they engage with us, they realise that they have a team that works with them for their parent and that they have someone with confer with. They understand that they can delegate the hands on care and get their life back”. While starting a service for an elderly parent, India Home Health Care administers a questionnaire for the patient’s family to deduce how much of psychological support they need, which helps in stemming the Care Giver Burnout.
3. Garner support: Accept help and support from other friends or family. Discuss the issues you have at hand and the specific tasks that they could help with. If you are open and honest about the situation, you will be surprised by the positive responses you will get. Create partnerships with other siblings. Even if they live far away, speak to them to relieve you for a few weeks. Try confiding in friends, unloading can make you feel a lot better.
4. Accept the reality: Things can go wrong and you cannot control everything. As is often said, there is no such thing as a perfect care giver. Do not feel guilty if you fall short of things, at times. Your house need not be perfectly kept at all times.
5. Take care of your health: Going for regular physical check-ups is even more important when you are a care giver. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat well and exercise regularly so that you feel fit and fine.
Remember that your parent wants you to be happy and healthy, above everything. It will hurt them to watch you weaken while taking care of them. So watch out for those warning signs, learn to lighten the stress and the risk of burnout.