Caring for someone with dementia can be mentally draining and physically exhausting. If you are providing the bulk of care for a loved one – especially if your loved one has dementia – you may be experiencing these feelings.
Caregiver burnout is a very real problem. It’s well documented that over time, your physical and mental health will suffer as a result of everything you’re taking on. Your situation may not be sustainable over a long period of time and could ultimately be dangerous – for you and the person you are caring for. There are many symptoms of caregiver burnout. Here are a few of the most serious.
Lack of Sleep
Often, someone who suffers from dementia has an irregular sleep cycle. This can lead to a lack of sleep and rest for the caregiver as well. You may also not be sleeping because you’re worried your loved one will wander out of the home or take a fall and hurt themselves if you’re not constantly watching them. Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood, memory and health in really surprising ways. According to Johns Hopkins researchers, sleep deprivation can lead to your own risk for dementia! Read here for more ways a lack of sleep can affect you.
When you spend the majority of time caring for others, caring for yourself takes a hit! A lack of attention to your own needs can lead to negative changes in your own health – maybe you’ve been missing regular checkups, or other important screenings like a mammogram or prostate exam and more. Perhaps you aren’t spending enough time addressing your mental health. The link between mental and physical health has been well documented. Depression can cause real physical ailments such as back pain, irritable bowel syndrome…and even make you more susceptible to strokes and certain types of cancer! Please keep these things in mind and remember: there is a reason that flight attendants tell you to put on your mask first before you help others – you can’t effectively help your loved one unless you help yourself first.
Most often, undertaking a caregiving role is unpaid with no benefits. If you must or choose to devote yourself full-time to your loved one, you probably don’t have another paying job OR you may be working irregular hours to manage a part time job as well as your caregiving duties in order to get by. According to the AARP, caregivers spend on average 20% of their income on caregiving expenses. This includes home modifications, medications, insurance premiums, additional food and personal supplies and more. Financial stress has a costly impact on your health, relationships and more.
Let’s be honest, the difficulties of caring for someone else can make you frustrated and angry at times. This is a normal, typical emotion. Particularly if you are new to your role and have lots to learn about the disease, you may find yourself feeling extra frustrated with your loved one…are they faking this? Why are they so stubborn? Can’t they remember? First, don’t beat yourself up. What you are doing is hard. Acknowledge your feelings, forgive yourself for feeling anger and know you aren’t alone. It may be helpful to talk to a friend or therapist or to commiserate with other caregivers at a support group. These tips may help as well.
Sometimes the pivot to becoming a caregiver involves leaving socializing with friends, hobbies and relaxing behind because you feel that instead of focusing on maintaining relationships and experiencing joy yourself, you must prioritize your caregiving tasks. Withdrawing from the things you love can cause you to become lonely and isolated. It’s absolutely pertinent that you take time for yourself and do things that bring you joy. Whether it’s practicing yoga, going for a run, getting dinner or drinks with a friend, crafting or even just taking a drive by yourself – please prioritize yourself and your well-being. You are important too. Taking advantage of respite care may be helpful to you. Many communities, including The Meriwether, offer temporary or respite stays so you can travel or simply take a break. Or seeking help from others inside your home could be an option to pursue.
If you’re experience any of the things mentioned above, we encourage you to ask for help. There are tools and resources available including:
Organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association, AARP and the Family Caregiver Alliance all offer lists of tips and resources to consider. Click on each below to be taken directly to information on resources each organization provides.
Check out what’s available in your local area. Click on each link below.
Getting some help inside your home may provide you some relief. The Home Care Association of America has a search function on their website and could be a good place to start.
If none of the options above work for you, know that trained memory care professionals are often better equipped to help with those with memory loss. If memory care is something that you’re looking to explore, reach out to our team about what help and support we may be able to provide to you!