It’s no wonder so many Americans consider themselves ‘stressed out’; one in seven adults in this country are caring for both an aging parent along with their own children. In many cases it’s the setup for caregiver burnout.
“What happens is they start withdrawing. Caregivers start withdrawing from family and friends, they start getting sick themselves. They have guilty feelings, they start feeling hopeless,” says Dr. Mala Singh, family practitioner with Lee Memorial Health System.
Being pulled in several directions creates a heightened sense of anxiety. It can manifest itself in sleep deprivation, depression or excessive use of drugs or alcohol, all things that increase general health risks.
It sounds simple, but the first step in feeling better is to recognize the issue. Caregivers get so caught up in managing their daily schedules that they don’t take time to look at the big picture, and schedule their own breaks.
“Ask a friend, ask anybody you can, to come help you. Even if you take that one-hour for yourself just to take a walk or have a cup of coffee or read a book. You need that time for yourself and there should be absolutely no guilt involved. It’s very, very necessary,” says Dr. Singh.
Most communities have resources for caregivers that may include adult daycare options. Lee Memorial Health System offers its ‘powerful tools for caregivers’ classes several times a year. Your family doctor can be your front-line advocate.
“That’s what I try to do for the patients, not just give them a band-aid, get to the root of the problem. And eliminate that,” says Dr. Singh.
It’s important to add yourself on the list of people to care for.