If you are the spouse or adult child of a parent whose health is declining, you might find yourself struggling to juggle their needs with your own, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Some family caregivers work outside the home and have children or grandchildren of their own to support. The term “sandwich generation” was coined to describe situations like these.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, an increasing number of people find themselves in this situation. As our population continues to grow older, the number of family caregivers climbs. In fact, nearly 43.5 million adults in this country are unpaid caregivers for a friend or family member. Add to that the stress and struggles associated with trying to protect yourself and your senior loved one from the coronavirus.
The result can be a health crisis for the caregiver. Many times, this starts with failing to recognize and act on the warning signs of caregiver burnout.
9 Frequent Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
Because the symptoms may occur gradually, it’s easy to overlook them. If you are a caregiver, take a few minutes to review the most common signs that you likely need to take a break:
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Persistent stomach or digestive issues
- Fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest
- Anxiety that impairs daily activities
- Easily tearful or quick to anger
- Unintended weight gain or weight loss
- Backaches and headaches
- Giving in to unhealthy habits (i.e. drinking or sitting more than usual)
- Loss of interest in socializing
If more than a few of these symptoms describe your situation, it may be time for professional advice. Start by scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician. They can conduct a physical exam to evaluate your well-being and work with you to create a plan for getting back on a healthier track.
In the meantime, here are some suggestions for managing the stressors associated with caregiving.
Managing Caregiver Stress
- Meditate: There is real science behind meditation. Studies show that meditating helps to manage the stress and anxiety that is part of most caregivers’ lives. Even pausing to meditate 10 minutes at the start of the day or during your lunch break can help you maintain better health. Apps like Calm and 10% Happier can get you started.
- Journal: Another healthy practice for managing caregiver stress is journaling. It’s become more popular in recent years and for good reason. Getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper is a great way to find solutions and reduce stress.
- Eat well: Sticking to a healthy diet often takes more time than relying on convenience foods or fast food. For busy caregivers, time is something that’s frequently in short supply. Test out home-delivered meal services, such as Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Freshly. Another option is to utilize a home-delivery grocery service, like Shipt or Instacart. These will save you time while also ensuring that your refrigerator stays stocked with fresh, healthy foods.
- Exercise: Making time for exercise when you are a caregiver might not seem feasible. In reality, exercise can actually improve your energy level and promote better sleep. Fortunately, you can break your daily exercise into 10- or 15-minute blocks and still reap the same health rewards as 30 minutes of continuous exercise. For example, practice 15 minutes of yoga in the morning and then take a 15-minute walk or work out with resistance bands in the evening.
Explore Assisted Living through Virtual Tours
Sometimes caregiver burnout is the result of a loved one requiring more care than a family can actually provide at home. An assisted living or memory care community might be a solution to consider. While COVID-19 concerns are limiting visitors to many communities, virtual tours allow families to learn more. Call the Sunrise community nearest you or 1-888-434-4648 to set up a time!