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Caring for an aging parent?

July 6, 2023
2 minutes

Stepping into the role of caregiver for your older parent can be very rewarding. It’s heartfelt work—and it’s also often stressful work.

Over time, too much stress can wear anyone down. If the stress becomes overwhelming, you could begin to experience a sense of exhaustion and hopelessness that experts call caregiver burnout. And at that point, you can’t properly take care of your own health, much less tend to your parent’s health and needs.

Am I burned out?
The symptoms of caregiver burnout can include:

  • Eating too much or too little or drinking or smoking more.
  • Feeling tired or run down a lot.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Feeling irritable or resentful toward your parent.
  • Neglecting your own needs.

Caregiver stress and burnout can also contribute to mental health problems, like depression, and can even harm your physical health.

Take action
Burnout often happens when caregivers don’t take time to care for their own physical and emotional health. Here are some tips from experts that can help reduce your risk for burnout and make you a better, happier caregiver.

Ask for caregiving help. Other family members or even friends may be willing to help with some daily tasks—like driving your parent to medical appointments or running errands.

Nourish your health. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and get enough exercise and sleep. If you can, take your parent on short walks.

Make time for hobbies or other activities you enjoy. Try to take at least a few minutes each day to unwind and recharge.

Get relief. Ask a relative or close friend to stay with your parent, or consider using a respite service (such as an adult day center) so you can enjoy a break.

Stay connected. It’s important to keep up your friendships. If you can’t leave the house, invite a friend over for coffee or lunch.

Join a support group in person or online. Share your feelings with other people who may know what you’re going through and who can offer encouragement and possible solutions to ongoing problems.

Schedule checkups with your doctor. Speak up if you feel sad, hopeless or overwhelmed.

Sources: American Heart Association; Family Caregiver Alliance; HelpGuide

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