Suffer from Caregiver Burnout? Tips to Relieve Caregiver Stress.

If you have never heard Senior Comedienne Mary Maxwell, the video above will be a delightful surprise. In this clip, Ms. Maxwell was asked to present the invocation at an event honoring the employees of Home Instead. Her invocation turns directly into a witty and comical prayer about what it is like to grow old. While her words are funny, they are also poignant. As a Private Investigation Firm, we are often hired to look into potential elder abuse cases. We work to educate families on how they can help to prevent elder abuse, highlighting the types of tactics predators use, what signs to look for if you suspect elder abuse, and/or how you can work to hire the most reliable caregivers. Usually, we focus on predatory elder abusers or agencies who haven't run complete background checks on their employees.

This time, we felt it was only fair to show the other side of elder abuse - or potential elder abuse - which takes place when compassionate and loving individuals have to bear the day-to-day burden of taking care of their elderly loved ones. The emotional, physical, and financial strain can become literally crippling and without a support system, it can become a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, more and more support systems, such as Home Instead, which are reaching out to lend a helping hand.

In April of this year, NPR ran a wonderful series called "Family Matters." The series took a look at the financial and emotional toll placed on families as they struggle to care for their elderly relatives. No matter how much you love someone, sleep deprivation, a relinquishing of your personal interests and free time, and the strain of meeting another individual's needs day in and day out takes its toll. All of that, combined with financial strain - which is often part of the equation - and its no wonder caregiver stress,  leading to caregiver burnout, is so common. Unfortunately, caregiver burnout is also dangerous.

While it's true that some cases of elder abuse are the result of conscious predators, sometimes elder abuse is simply the result of a caregiver who is overwhelmed with his/her day-to-day - often grueling- responsibilities. If you or your loved ones are struggling with the daily care required by an aging family member, please know that there are people who are ready and willing to provide support.

Understanding the Cause of Caregiver Burnout

In this particular NPR series, the spotlight was placed on Yolanda Hunter, a 43-year old woman, who quit her steady well-paying job in order to become the full-time caretaker for her grandmother, Ida Christian. The Christian/Hunter family is not alone. According to the non-partisan research group, Pew Research Center, "The Great Recession" has caused more multi-generational families to live under one roof than any other time in modern history. Caregivers are often put under tremendous physical strain as they assist elderly relatives to go to the bathroom, shower, or moving in and out of vehicles. The job can involve difficult tasks, such as routinely feeding, changing , and cleaning up after the relative.

Elderly individuals are often restless at night, which means their caregivers are in a state of chronic sleep deprivation. In addition, elderly patients can be belligerent, angry and disrespectful - common manifestations of dementia or Alzheimer's.

After months of taking care of her grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer's, Yolanda said,

"I used to hear about people saying, 'Oh you know, we have to put our parents in a home, we can't deal with it anymore,' and I used to think, 'Oh, how cruel are you?'

But now? I understand how people get to that last possible moment ? it takes over your entire life."

Getting Relief From Caregiver Stress or Caregiver Burnout

There are several things caregivers can do to find relief from the stress of caring for an elderly relative:

Tell Someone. Talk it out. Often times, the simple act of telling someone can provide relief. Caregivers are often the type of people who feel like they must "do it all without help."

They feel guilty asking for help or admitting they are feeling angry, frustrated, or even violent. Confiding in family and friends, and making a request for help, may help to rally the troups and create a schedule which allows for some much needed time off. If you don't feel there is anyone you can confide in, consider joining an online caregiver support forum or call a caregiver support hotline for help from people who understand.

Take a Break. Many families aren't aware that care giving isn't an all-or-nothing endeavor. There are day care facilities for the elderly which can be used regularly or intermittently, depending on the family's needs. There are also companies such as Home Instead, who offer driving assistance, in-home care, and a multitude of other options that can allow a burned out caregiver to get a few hours, a day, or a week off from time to time. These windows of space can help significantly to relieve caregiver stress. Even a few hours every week can be enough to recharge the batteries and reclaim the parts of themselves they have given up in an act of commendable service.

Give the Gift of Relief. If you have a family member or friend who is a caregiver, consider giving them the gift of relief. Offer to give them a break or give them the gift of a paid for daycare center visit or a Home Instead one-day service. Perhaps the family can all contribute in an effort to say "Thank You" for all the caregiver is doing to take care of a beloved relative.

While it is important to shed the light on elder abuse, it is also important to shed the light on the stress and strain that is put on elder caregivers. These jobs can be grueling, challenging, and caregivers are often underpaid, or receive no pay at all, for their tireless efforts. There is a popular saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," but it also takes a village to care for its elders. The more we all take this to heart, the more elders and their caregivers will be given the respect and care they deserve. We all bear the responsibility of elder abuse prevention.

Mike Garroutte is the owner of Linked Investigations, a private investigation firm serving Newport Beach, CA. He has been working as a Los Angeles Private investigator, and an Orange County Private Investigator for more than 30 years. Contact Linked Investigations when you need professional, experienced, and affordable private investigative services.

Published on: 
November 1, 2012
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