When caring for an elderly loved one, you are often responsible for a multitude of caregiving tasks every single day. In fact, the Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that 1.5 million older adults cannot complete three or more activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and cooking, on their own. Many of these activities of daily living end up falling on the shoulders of the caregiver.
In addition to increasing the risk of experiencing caregiver burnout, these responsibilities also lead many caregivers to develop tunnel vision, meaning that they solely focus on the tasks in front of them. While understandable, this outlook separates you from your biggest source of social support: your friends and loved ones.
Overcoming this tendency to have tunnel vision can be difficult, but taking the time to care for yourself and focus on the other relationships in your life is essential in staying healthy and preventing caregiver burnout.
The Very Real Risk of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout, according to WebMD, is a “state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude.” Not only can this condition lower your quality of life, but it also directly affects your ability to care for your loved one. That’s why you need to stay self-aware and look for any of the most common symptoms of caregiver burnout, such as:
- Becoming sick more frequently
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Neglecting your own needs
Should you notice any of these signs of caregiver burnout, take a step back from your caregiving responsibilities to focus on yourself. Even something as simple as planning a relaxing staycation in your own home or spending time with your friends will make a big difference in combating those feelings of extreme stress and exhaustion.
How Social Support Prevents Caregiver Burnout
In addition to caregiver burnout, social isolation is another common condition among caregivers. Whether caregivers isolate themselves by focusing on their responsibilities or friends distance themselves because they unsure how to provide help for caregivers, receiving social support can unfortunately become rare.
But luckily, social isolation doesn’t have to be part of your caregiving journey. Socializing with others is a big help for caregivers, but if you’re unsure how to balance caregiving and social support, here are some tips from AARP to guide you:
- Get past the guilt. Aside from caregiver burnout, another reason why caregivers distance themselves from friends is because they feel guilty about spending time away from their loved one. But for your own well-being, you must do your best to get past these feelings of guilt. Remind yourself that it’s completely normal and acceptable to focus on yourself, and in the end, it’s how you’re going to be able to provide your loved one with the best possible care.
- Set aside time on your calendar. Just like any other appointment, you’re going to have to make time for your friendships. The easiest way to do so is to organize a weekly event with friends, family or neighbors to ensure socializing becomes part of your regular routine, and remember: don’t cancel unless absolutely necessary. As an added bonus, make this weekly friend date an active one by committing to taking a long walk together, going to the gym, or trying a Zumba class for the first time.
- Take advantage of the little things. If you’re still struggling with finding time to socialize with others, remind yourself that it doesn’t take much for a social interaction to make a big difference on your outlook. Even a simple phone call, quick lunch or a chat over coffee can help you recharge and receive social support.
- Surround yourself with supportive friends. Not everyone knows the best way to provide help for caregivers, and that’s okay. Seek out friends who are supportive and understanding of your situation rather than those who tend to be critical. You’ll benefit much more from positive energy than negative.
- Attend a caregiver support group. Support groups for caregivers are a great alternative if you are having trouble connecting with close family and friends. These groups are a great reminder that you are never alone in your caregiver journey. In order to get the most out of your support group experience, be sure to find the caregiver support group that’s right for you.
Help for Caregivers & Their Senior Loved Ones
Along with social support, remember that there are numerous resources and services dedicated to providing help for caregivers like you -- including services like Medical Guardian. By offering affordable and reliable medical alert systems that enable seniors to receive immediate help in an emergency, we provide caregivers with invaluable peace of mind, no matter how close or far away they live from their loved one.
Plus, you can rest assured knowing that you will be instantly notified by our 24/7 Monitoring Center should your loved one ever need to use their device in an emergency. So that means less time worrying about the safety of your loved one and more time focusing on your own health and well-being. What could be better than that?