Acting as the caregiver for an older adult can be an extremely taxing “job”, whether you are caring for a close family member, a neighbor, or a friend. Most people want to be there for an ailing family or friend, but the emotional, physical and logistical impact is often underestimated. A common term in today’s society is the “sandwich generation,” meaning that many caregivers are taking care of a loved one, while still trying to meet the obligations of their everyday lives. Employment, children, and grandchildren are often enough to keep even the most energetic and organized person over-committed. The “burden” of care-giving as an additional duty inevitably leads to caregiver burnout.
Increasingly, senior centers, nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and churches are providing caregiver support groups. These groups provide the opportunity for caregivers to gather together and gain emotional support as well as practical tips for coping every day. Caregivers should seek out these support groups as both a means of support, and a way to interact with others and have a break from their daily routine.
It is also essential that caregivers are provided assistance with simple activities that they no longer have time to do. Often even cutting the grass, an activity which was once relaxing, is just too much to keep up with on a regular basis. Caregivers must take care of themselves and begin to ask for help. Typically other friends and family want to be helpful, but they are unsure of what to do; it is imperative for the caregiver to make specific requests. For example, when a person is asked how they can help, the caregiver often responds, “thank you I will let you know if I need anything.” Instead caregivers should say, “I really appreciate you offering, next time you mow your grass would you mind mowing mine?” Sometimes a specific request is helpful for the person offering to help, and the caregiver gains a little relief to free up time for other activities.