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Dealing With Elder Care Burnout

The aging population here in the U.S. has widespread impact. If you aren’t already among the many who provide emotional, financial, or physical support for parents or grandparents, you’ll be there soon enough.

And as well-intentioned and genuine as your efforts might be, caregiving takes a toll. Caring for yourself is as critical as caring for your loved one so that you have enough reserves for the long haul.

Whether you’re just starting the caregiving journey or feel like you’ve reached a breaking point, take steps to avoid — and recover from — burnout.

  • Don’t go it alone. Caring for an aging loved one can be isolating. Look for encouragement from friends and family who love you, and join a formal support group. (Caregiver Action Network is a good starting point.)
  • Ask for what you need. There are limits to what one person can do. Have courage to request and accept help. As you network, you’ll find organizations and private individuals who are on your side, who can help you make decisions, and who will go to bat for you. (Your local Area Agency on Aging can be a great go-to.)
  • Consider how family can help. Your family can be a source of support, but hold reasonable expectations. If you have children, find ways to involve them and your aging parent in each other’s lives. Not every family gets the chance to foster a strong bond between generations — to reinforce family, legacy, and heritage.
  • Identify your strengths. Instead of focusing on tasks that feel overwhelming, build on your strengths. Maybe you’re healthy but not particularly good at paperwork. So concentrate on meeting your loved one’s physical needs, and delegate estate administration to a financially sharp sibling or professional.
  • Take a break. Making time for yourself isn’t a sign of weakness, and you don’t need to feel guilty about getting away. Schedule regular activities that refresh your soul and body—whether it’s reading on the porch or playing a round of golf. You can hire a companion to watch your elder, or ask a relative to help out. You could also enroll your loved one in an adult day care program.
  • Reaffirm your faith and calling. God has appointed a time and place for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Change is inevitable, but it’s also an opportunity to love and serve God in new ways. When discouragement and fatigue tempt you to give up, take a step back, take a deep breath, and recommit to self-care. If caring for your aging loved one is part of the Lord’s calling on your life, He’ll see you through.

For more insight, we recommend Jane Daly’s book The Caregiving Season and Focus on the Family’s broadcast Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones. Both are available through Focus’ Online Store.