Whether you are caring for an elderly family member, or a carer by profession, caring can take its toll on your mental and physical health & wellbeing. On the one hand, you might get enormous gratification from caring for someone dear. On the other, caring can be relentless and demand personal sacrifice and tolerance. In this post, we’ll share the story of a real client who suffered caregiver burnout and how she overcame her struggle.
Genevieve* was 60 when she began feeling the effects of burnout. She had lived with her mother all her life and had been her mother’s primary source of support since her father’s passing 20 years ago.
She was no stranger to caring and did so with duty and love. It was only when her then 82-year-old mother began living with advanced dementia that Genevieve felt the impact on her own health and wellbeing.
It was only when discussing her unique situation with an experienced Care Manager that she understood how to both care for herself, and her mother, as best she could.
My mother depends solely on me; I don’t have time for self-care
Genevieve was her mother’s nurse, carer, daughter, companion, advocate, and enemy – all at the same time. She had watched the dementia progress over time and understood her mother better than anyone.
This 24/7 care left Genevieve thin, frail, and severely depressed. It was easy to forget to eat when she was battling through a long day. It was impossible to get a good night’s sleep when she had to be alert at all times to make sure her mother was safe and not trying to leave the house in the middle of the night. Self-care was not high on her list of priorities.
You can’t give more than you have. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you’re putting both you and your mother at risk. You may understand your mother the best, but an experienced carer who’s trained in specialised dementia care can provide the relief you need.
This can be done in short bursts initially if it makes you feel more comfortable, or if you still don’t feel as though you can leave your mother – a carer can pop in to see that you have food in the house and prepare a healthy meal.
Having someone else in your corner also alleviates the mental stress and loneliness of care.
I’m ashamed to let anyone see my mother in the state she’s in
Genevieve’s mother became increasingly argumentative and aggressive as her disease progressed. She refused to bath or shower. She would take her clothes off and soil herself several times a day. She would often say nasty things to her daughter and demand that she move out of their home.
These symptoms of the disease left Genevieve feeling emotionally drained and ashamed to let others to see her mother - who always carried herself in a proud, dignified manner – for the stranger she seemed to be.
Dementia is a cruel disease that leaves many wonderful people acting in unfamiliar and unsociable ways. That is ok. A carer isn’t there to judge anyone – they are there to support and care for a person who deserves to live with respect and dignity.
When you have a carer who knows what to do during episodes of difficult or uncooperative behaviour, you have an extra pair of hands you can trust to care for your mother as if they were caring for their own mother.
I am trapped and overwhelmed
Genevieve admitted to feeling resentful and guilty. She was angry about having to care for her mother. A care home was not an option financially or emotionally and Genevieve carried the burden of care alone.
Guilt, loneliness, resentment, sadness – these are all symptoms of caregiver burnout. Asking for, or accepting help, is a crucial part of taking care of yourself. You are not alone and you can’t do it all alone - that makes you human. There is no shame in asking for help and there’s nothing to be gained from suffering in silence. You deserve the time and space to practice self-care.
It took a few more months, but Genevieve couldn’t deny that she needed help. She called on the CareCompany to design a care plan that would alleviate some of the responsibilities of caring for her mother. We matched Genevieve and her mother with a wonderful carer, Laurel*, who had extensive training and experience working with people living with Dementia.
Over time, Laurel became a familiar face and friend as she helped Genevieve care for her mother until her passing. At the same time, Genevieve’s physical and mental health improved and in her own words, came back to life in many ways she’d forgotten while caring for her mother.
If you or someone you know if suffering from caregiver burnout, contact us to discuss your unique circumstances. We’re here to help.
*Names have been changed