Family caregiving can be difficult, stressful, and time-consuming. However, despite the frustrations and fatigue, many family members find themselves in some type of caregiving role as their loved ones age. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that an estimated 34.2 million Americans have provided some type of caregiving assistance to adults over the age of 50 in the past year. These informal caregivers, typically family members or friends, enter into their caregiving role with loving intentions ... and without the knowledge of the reality of caregiver burnout.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
Caring for someone else, in any capacity, has the potential to be damaging without the correct tools and resources. The Cleveland Clinic defines the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can happen to a caregiver who is not getting the support they need as “caregiver burnout.”
Caregiver burnout is a serious phenomenon among family and professional caregivers. It can result in increased illness, including an increase in depression and/or anxiety issues. Some caregivers will find it difficult to sleep, while others will take refuge in addictive behaviors to find relief. Without proper support and tools, caregivers can experience anger or resentment toward their loved one and can grieve the relationship they once shared.
Though caregiver burnout is a serious consequence of caregiving without support or healthy coping mechanisms, caregivers don’t have to suffer from the condition. Indeed, caregivers can actively seek out help from others, as well as from technology or other tools to lessen their load.
Tools and Technology to Help Caregivers
Fortunately, caregiver burnout is no longer a taboo or undiagnosed condition. The senior industry has rallied around family caregivers, coming up with tools that can help them succeed and thrive in their role. Here are just a few resources you may choose to add to your toolbelt to ensure you are getting the extra rest or assistance you may need:
Respite care services
Most home health agencies offer respite care services, and not enough family caregivers take advantage of it. Respite care offers relief for family caregivers, allowing for a home health caregiver to spend time with the senior while their family caregiver enjoys some time away from their duties. Schedule respite care for when you are traveling for work or for pleasure, as well as for a few regular hours each month to get the time you need to recharge.
Grocery delivery services
Taking your loved one out to grocery shop each week can feel daunting during some seasons. Thanks to apps and services from most local grocery stores, you can order your loved one’s groceries online and either pick them up or have someone drop them off to your loved one’s door. Spend your extra time enjoying a cup of coffee with your loved one instead of fighting the crowds on a Sunday morning grocery run.
GPS tracking systems
For seniors living with dementia, wandering out of the home can pose a real—and dangerous—threat to their safety. If your loved one is confused, has a history of wandering, or is newly diagnosed with dementia, you may consider investing in a GPS tracker that can clip to their clothes. You can download an app on your smartphone to track your loved one’s whereabouts, which can be crucial when they have left the home.
Apps to track medical information
Most doctor’s offices now use digital medical charts and give patients access to their results and follow-up instructions via a patient portal. Use this portal access to keep up with doctor appointments you cannot attend with your loved one and stay on top of any follow-up care.
Medication administration assistance
Finally, medication administration and preparation can take up a significant amount of time for caregivers. Setting up a pillbox weekly with required medications and supplements can become complex as new prescriptions are added, and a missed (or doubled) dose can cause an emergency room visit. Skip the pillbox entirely and choose to invest in an automatic medication administration system. Look for features such as storage, cueing, and a notification system if a dose is missed.
The Livi automated medication administration system allows caregivers to stock up to 90 days of medications ahead of time, eliminating the weekly pillbox refills of the past. Further, Livi offers real-time updates to caregivers if a dose is missed, so that the caregiver can follow up appropriately.
Caregiving can be tough, but it can also be infinitely rewarding. The key difference between the two is the support and help you receive along the way. We are cheering you on during this time!