Caregiver burnout is real. The Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco says that more caregivers are hospitalized because of stress and depression rather than worsening medical conditions. Caregivers tend to put themselves last, especially if they are caring for aging parents or relatives. The pressure on caregivers is higher when they care for someone they love. It is mentally exhausting to argue with siblings who require more from you than you can normally give.
Although caring for aging parents has many rewards, being a home care provider can be overwhelming and exhausting mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is especially true if the caregivers initially offer to do this for the short term but eventually find themselves committing to this for the next months and years of their lives. Imagine being on your way to a fulfilling career then suddenly having to stop everything to care for your aging parents.
It may not be their fault that they cannot care for themselves. It is not the family’s fault that you cannot afford an assistance-living facility. For all you know, your parents have devoted themselves and their finances to send you all to school; so much so that they were not able to save enough for their retirement. That responsibility now falls on your shoulders. And for some reason, you have become the perfect person to care for them probably because of proximity.
Effects of Caregiving on Health and Well-being
But as studies have shown, family caregivers are at a higher risk of anxiety and depression. There are several factors for this. The combination of loss, stress, physical exhaustion, and biological vulnerabilities put family caregivers on a mental and emotional downhill. Not to mention, caregiving spouses above the age of 65 have a higher risk of dying than people their age who are not caregivers.
The effect is not only significant on the caregivers. It is also impactful on those who need their care. Imagine being stressed out. Will you be able to give the same quality of caregiving as if you are healthy and happy? Depressed people usually cannot sleep and eat well. They get tired easily and they are less motivated to do their tasks. This doesn’t only affect them but also the people they are caring for.
And what happens when they fail to give medicine on time or when there’s an incident they could have prevented? They’ll feel guilty. They will blame themselves for what has happened. They will further spiral down into depression. The next thing you know, these family caregivers are the ones who need care and assistance, and not the aging parents or relatives.
Family caregivers need to understand that they also have to care for themselves. You can either let other family members take care of your aging parents at least once to twice a week or hire a professional caregiver to look after them. Either way, it is in your and your parents’ best interest that you feel healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally.