I’m a caregiver for my parents, and I am overwhelmed. What can I do?
Many caregivers suffer from burnout. While you can't change your aging
parents' condition, you can do things for yourself.
First, I'd recommend a physical exam. Report your symptoms of feeling
overwhelmed and anxious. Sometimes a physician will recommend medication
to help control the things that make it hard for you to function day to day.
Medication is a kind of support, and is worth a try if your doctor thinks it will help.
You may need to ask for it. It can certainly help with anxiety.
Next, it might make sense for you to have the support of others in your situation. Is
there a support group in your area? Can you join an online support group? As an
example, the Alzheimer's Association offers such groups, as does the Family
Caregiver Alliance and other, similar organizations. Search for caregiver support
groups and try one out. It can be a big relief just to share the everyday burdens
with other caregivers who may be feeling as you do.
Also, consider respite for yourself. You need and deserve time to "recharge your
batteries". No one has to feel guilty about taking time off. We all need it. Is there
someone who can take over for you for a few days off? Can you get away, even if
it's just to turn off the responsibility for a period to rest and not think about your
job of caregiving? Periods of rest are essential to doing a good job of caregiving.
Maintaining your own mental health in this way will reduce your anxiety
and allow you to recover from the sources of your distress, from time to time.
Finally, I'm a firm believer in walking as therapy. It's purposeful exercise, gentle,
stress-relieving and it can be your mini-respite work that you can do daily. If you
have any mobility problems yourself, there are substitutes just about anyone can
use. The point is that some exercise every day, even for 20 minutes, can do a
great deal to reduce the anxiety and alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed.
It changes the stress-induced metabolic response your body goes through when
you're feeling uptight. Think about building some form of exercise into your
busy schedule. By protecting your own physical and emotional well-being, you
will be able to focus better and continue to do your best for your parents.