Over the years of caring for the elderly at Vermont Aged Care, we’ve become close with the family members of our residents. We’ve learnt a lot about the what happens in the years leading up to these people trusting us with the care of their loved ones. One of the things we’ve seen often is Elderly Carer Fatigue.
What is Elderly Carer Fatigue?
Are you feeling stressed out, tired and even a bit depressed sometimes? You may be experiencing some form of Elderly Carer Fatigue. Perhaps you haven’t identified it and don’t know what to do. Whether you live in the same home or not, depending upon the circumstances, it can be a 24/7 job. That is one reason why carer fatigue can lead to exhaustion. Giving your undivided attention to a sick or disabled person is a noble but demanding role. After all, your health, happiness and wellbeing are important too. Perhaps the following tips may help.
Do the following symptoms strike a chord with you? Irritability, loss of appetite, problems with sleeping well and through the night? Do you find yourself being short with family members and friends as a result? If you do not have enough downtime you may feel like you are burning the candle at both ends. Therefore, taking good care of yourself is not selfish it is important. Whether that be mental health, such as maintaining positive thoughts, coping mechanisms, and finding solutions. Or your physical health, eating well, sleeping well, exercise and recreation. Lastly, emotional health is vital to prevent feelings of depression or failure. All of the above may indicate that you are suffering some form of carer fatigue. Let’s look at some helpful ways to combat the above.
Your mental health
You can assist in maintaining a good state of mental health. For instance, by telling yourself that a healthy balance between the needs of the patient and your own needs is necessary and sensible. Find coping mechanisms that work for you such as listening to your favourite music. How about scheduling time to watch a program you particularly enjoy? Or sitting in the sun with your favourite book, a sandwich and a cup of coffee? Guilt can weigh you down if your loved one is not recovering. Tell yourself that is not in your realm of expertise and reassure yourself you are doing your very best. This is especially true in the case of diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. If possible, ask someone you know and trust to come and sit with your loved one to give you some time off on a regular basis.
Your physical health
The basics still hold true here. You must eat well, but also joyfully. Make sure you continue to eat the foods that give you pleasure. If you enjoy the occasional drink you can continue to do so through planning and integration. And we all know moderation is the key! Also try to do some form of exercise to keep yourself fit and ensure lots of healthy oxygen is being pumped through your blood and heart. That said, lots of people don’t enjoy going to the gym or doing formal exercises. That’s where simple activities such as walking or gardening can be substituted. And why not some dancing? If that is what you enjoy it will combine two solutions into one; moving and joy. Lastly, if you have not been feeling well yourself, talk to your GP. You may need help in that area that you were not aware of.
Your emotional health
Some of the signs to watch for are withdrawal from contact with family and friends. Wanting to be alone because you feel alone in your thoughts. The burden may be becoming too heavy, and that is the time to reach out and ask for help. You may be somewhat depressed and unaware of it. Don’t let sadness or a sense of failure settle in and obscure the wonderful job you are actually doing. If you are experiencing feelings of anger, don’t bottle them up, share them with someone you trust. After all, you don’t want communication problems to spoil your relationship with the person you are caring for. You may be experiencing financial problems. Once again, this is a problem that you want to share and ask for help with. Help can come from many sectors, family, the government or associations specialising in that sector.
Keep a positive attitude and tell yourself that everyone has good and bad days. Even people who are not caring for an elderly relative. You are not alone, even if you do not have any family. For instance, there are a number of forms of assistance available to you through your local Council, Care Charities, Volunteers Associations etc. All you have to do is reach out to them and they will be only too happy to help. A good place to start is the local Council because they have a lot of helpful information which is freely available. Transport may be a problem you are facing and they will have information on that subject too.
This blog is intended to provide helpful advice. Please speak with your family GP for personalised information or, for specialist advice & support in Melbourne Australia, please contact VERMONT AGED CARE:
770 Canterbury Road, Vermont, Victoria, Australia 3133.
Phone: +61 03 9873-5300
Thanks to WebMD for some great supporting materials. Whilst they are USA based, there are many useful articles on their website too (http://www.webmd.boots.com/caring/guide/carer-fatigue). Further, if you see one you like let us know and we will try to ‘Aussie’ it for you by localising the content so it is more relevant to Australians.