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Is Taking Care of An Elderly Parent or Relative Causing You to Burn Out?

Let’s think of this common scenario:

You are an adult with a family of your own, juggling working a full-time job, handling childcare, managing chores and life responsibilities, and now, your parent or older relative has fallen ill. You find yourself in a new role as their caretaker, stretched thin between processing the emotional stress their condition brings and handling logistics like taking them to their doctor’s appointments, helping pick up their medications, ensuring they are fed and their home is clean, and going back and forth with their health insurance provider. You have to make impactful decisions about their treatment and living arrangements without any experience or real knowledge of the options and resources available. Your siblings are busy or live out of town and you feel responsible for taking on most of the work. On top of the time required to care for your elderly loved one, the emotional labor involved, and the continued management of your other responsibilities, you now find yourself face-to-face with the financial realities of senior caregiving.

You might be able to handle things for a while, but sooner or later, the added caretaker responsibilities are likely to catch up to you and you will find yourself experiencing symptoms of burnout.

Burnout is difficult to talk about.

We frame it in our minds as a lack of motivation and build up so much guilt around it. We associate it with complaining about our role as caretakers and worry that bringing it up could make our aging parent or loved one feel burdensome. In reality, the pace at which many of us take on these sudden responsibilities without making room for them in our daily lives is simply unsustainable. With this new workload being added on, taking care of yourself, making time for your family, and spending quality time with the elderly person in your life becomes deprioritized and as a result, your personal relationships, your sense of self, your career, and your home environment all start to suffer as you spend your energy putting out fires and tending to what seems more pressing.

So, how do you know if this is, indeed, what you’re experiencing so you can take the proper steps to address it?

Symptoms of burnout can resemble those of anxiety and depression. This usually manifests as a significant lack of motivation, a constant feeling of overwhelm, a lack of interest in pursuing things that bring you joy, self-neglect, and a general feeling of aimlessness.

You may go through “feast or famine” cycles of productivity where you force yourself to go the extra mile to try to get ahead then crash and find yourself unable to perform simple tasks.

If you are experiencing burnout or feel you may be headed there, it’s important to find ways to communicate and discuss what you’re going through in a pragmatic way and without guilt. Follow our page on Facebook or subscribe to our newsletter below to be on the lookout for next week’s article where we will outline some great tips for managing the stress and workload of caregiving, as well as ways of reframing the important work you are doing in order to regain your true relationship with your elderly loved one.

Senior Steps offers FREE consultation calls every day. You can also reach out to us directly on our website to schedule a virtual or in-person evaluation.

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