Caring for the Caregiver: Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Senior care can add one more dimension to your job duties that can sometimes lead to impossible schedules without enough time for all of your other family duties and life obligations.  From our book reviewer, Renata Laszuk, comes this guest post.

I’m exhausted. I’ve been caring for my parents, my spouse and my children. Money is tighter than it’s ever been and my work hours just got cut. Then someone comes along and tells me I should look for the silver lining and I want to hit them over the head with my day-planner. But if I know that someone has faced those challenges in their own life, I might be inclined to put down any heavy objects and listen.

In his recent book, Find the Upside of the Down Times, How to Turn Your Worst Experiences into Your Best Opportunities, Dr. Rob Pennington suggests we “view our challenges in a different way”. He acknowledges that this is no easy feat, especially if one is not born with the “glass is half-full” gene, but proposes this book will help teach the reader how we can “turn our worst experiences into our best opportunities.”

This is taken from the book jacket: Dr. Rob Pennington has been shot by an assailant, fired from his job, audited by the IRS, and cared for a critically ill spouse. Every time life threw down a challenge, Rob discovered a way to find the upside. His experience demonstrates that no matter how daunting the challenge or how overwhelming the fear, we can take steps to create a positive outcome.

In each chapter, Dr. Pennington’s presents the story of a particularly challenging event in his life, followed by the lesson he needed to learn or What to Remember, and finally, each chapter ends with a suggestion of an activity or What to Do to take role in changing your situation.

Chapter 8, The Gift of Giving, describes the trials and exhaustion of constant caregiving, along with the lesson of giving without the need to receive—certainly a powerful tool for anyone who finds themselves in the role of caregiver.

I especially appreciate the quote Dr. Pennington includes in this caregiving chapter:
Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get—only with what your are expecting to give—which is everything. –Katherine Hepburn

You can find Dr. Pennington’s book, along with some of our other favorite books for senior caregivers at Caregiverlist’s Library of Senior Caregiving Books.

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Coping with Caregiver Burnout

Enjoy Summer Fun By Managing Caregiver Stress

Summer is finally here. While many people are firing up their grills, going fishing and pulling down their beach towels, it’s common for caregivers to feel exhausted and lack the desire to be social.

Think you might be suffering from caregiver burnout? Read on to identify the symptoms, and discover tips to help you unwind and enjoy the season.

Here’s ten ways to tell if caregiving is putting too much stress on you, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 

  • feeling overwhelmed
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • gaining or losing a lot of weight
  • feeling tired most of the time
  • loss of interest in activities you formerly enjoyed
  • becoming easily irritated or angered
  • feeling constantly worried
  • often feeling sad
  • frequent headaches, body pain, or other physical problems
  • abuse of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs

Here are the Health and Human Services Department recommendations for reducing caregiver stress, so you can get back to enjoying the summer: 

  • Find out about caregiving resources in your community.
  • Ask for and accept help. Be prepared with a mental list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what she would like to do. For instance, one person might be happy to take the person you care for on a walk a couple times a week. Someone else might be glad to pick up some groceries for you.
  • If you need financial help taking care of a senior relative, don't be afraid to ask family members to contribute their fair share.
  • Say "no" to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
  • Don't feel guilty that you are not a "perfect" caregiver. Just as there is no "perfect parent," there is no such thing as a "perfect caregiver." You're doing the best you can.
  • Identify what you can and cannot change. You may not be able to change someone else's behavior, but you can change the way that you react to it.
  • Set realistic goals. Caregivers can break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time.
  • Prioritize, make lists, and establish a daily routine.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends.
  • Join a support group for caregivers in your situation, such as caring for someone with dementia. Besides being a great way to make new friends, you can also pick up some caregiving tips from others who are facing the same problems you are.
  • Make time each week to do something that you want to do, such as go to a movie.
  • Try to find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep.
  • See your doctor for a checkup. Tell her that you are a caregiver and tell her about any symptoms of depression or sickness you may be having.
  • Try to keep your sense of humor.

Caregiverlist offers a wealth of resources for caregivers. Caregiverlist's Community section provides an opportunity for caregivers to share their story, and become inspired by stories submitted by other caregivers.

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