Clearly one-third of our younger generations will be caring for both their children and their ageing parents and we are seeing the early signs now as health ministries begin to adjust their service strategies. Our family-sourced care providers will need to learn new skills in order to avoid the very real possibility of caregiver burnout.
Last week you read the article Sometimes Our Loved Ones Bad Behavior Shows Up When Others Don’t this week article three is all about emotional wear and tear.
The Wear and Tear is Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual Not Just Physical
We often assume that burnout, when it comes to care giving, is primarily physical and it is. However, it is not limited to just the physical realm. 24/7 care is also very emotionally draining, mentally overwhelming, and challenging for the spirit. This full person burnout shows up in many ways:
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- A deep sense of being stuck
- A sense of resentment and frustration
- No feeling of hope or light at the end of the tunnel
- A cluttered living environment
- Lack of a personal social life
- No self-care practices
- Financial stresses
These are only eight of the many symptoms of caregiver burnout. They give you a flavor of what to look for in yourself as a caregiver or in family members who are in that position. Let’s look at three of these symptoms a little more closely
1. A deep sense of being stuck:
Often after a length of time giving care for a loved one 24/7 the caregiver seems unable to make even the simplest of decisions. This is a result of two things as far as I can see.
1) The intense single-minded focus care giving requires.
2) The mind numbing number of details 24/7 care giving consists of.
When faced with a choice of giving care to their loved one or handling household demands guess which one wins the day! Yes the loved one, and as a result the ‘other’ tasks then tend to build up and over time the caregiver sinks in the quick sand of household details. Sometimes even the simplest of decisions becomes a monster to deal with – “Should I go out for some fresh air?” becomes a huge and impossible decision to make. The feeling of being stuck is real and paralyzing.
2. A cluttered living environment:
Stemming from the ‘being stuck’ issue is the cluttered living environment. When giving 24/7 care to a dying loved one putting out the garbage can become meaningless when compared to being there for an ill family member. Along with household clutter can come all the props and equipment and furniture that are required to support the one receiving care. The home can become jam packed with ‘stuff’. The physical clutter often represents and makes worse the mental ‘clutter’ the caregiver is holding – as within so without.
Linked to the clutter are emotions. Emotions that reflect care for your loved one. To begin letting go of the ‘stuff’ is also the beginning of the outward letting go of your dying family member. Even though to others the clutter looks much like a fire hazard or a safety issue often time the one giving care cannot even ‘see’ it.
It is important to de-clutter the space, sometimes with a determined firm hand, while being patient and gentle as the caregiver is also letting go of the one they are caring for.
3. Lack of a personal social life:
When the one giving care to a family member is on 24/7 duty everything, including their own social life mistakenly takes a very far back seat. It may seem noble to give up friends and social outings yet it is these very normal and basic facets of life that bring balance to care giving. If you notice this going on for yourself or for a family member giving care make sure you schedule in regular weekly social outings that have nothing to do with giving care.