Being a caregiver of an aging loved one is an admirable but challenging role. Attending to the needs of others will take up the majority of your time, preventing you from tending to yourself.
That is why many caregivers are unfortunately prone to burnout and fatigue. The work that they do is both physically and mentally taxing. One survey found that 17% of caregivers felt that their overall health has gotten worse since taking up the responsibility of caregiving.
It is often a thankless job. Unlike healthcare workers, they are unpaid. They are subject to intense criticism from their own families and, sometimes, the people they care for.
What can a caregiver of a difficult senior do?
Asking for Help is an Option
Caregiving is not for everyone. At some point, you will realize that, although you voluntarily took on the role, you have to also prioritize your well-being. If being a caregiver has severely affected your physical and mental health, if you are struggling, it is okay to ask for help.
You can pass the responsibility to a sibling temporarily to allow yourself to recuperate.
You do not have to be the sole caregiver, either. Your siblings and offspring can all chip in and split the tasks.
Moreover, when you feel that you have had enough, you can call an in-home care franchise. These services will send a professional to your aging relative’s home and assume the role of caregiver. These people have been trained to deal even with difficult clients. They know how to care for an ill senior and give them comfortable final years.
Do not feel guilty. It is not abandonment to hire a professional to take care of your loved one. You do it for their sake because maybe someone who has training will do a better job at tending to their needs, and for yourself. Moreover, you do it to preserve a positive relationship with an aging loved one.
Understand Why They are Behaving That Way
To some people, complaining or an overall negative attitude is chronic. If it happens all the time, it likely is because they are not aware of how their demeanor affects the people around them. It is still not okay for them to treat people that way, but maybe you can talk to them about it to solve the problem.
However, grumpiness among seniors can be a symptom of something. One possible reason for their behavior is their prescription medication messing with their brain chemistry, leading to mood swings. Those who are experiencing chronic pain may also become easily angered or irritated. UTI (urinary tract infection) can also be a source of sudden behavioral changes.
Dementia is, often, responsible for crabbiness among seniors. A classic symptom of the ailment, which affects the brain, is personality and behavioral changes. If they have been diagnosed with dementia, you can expect to witness them become angered and irritated more easily as they lose their memories.
Do Not Expect Emotional Validation
When you have invested your time and energy, you naturally want your efforts to be recognized. That will not likely happen when you become a caregiver to an aging loved one.
Severe illness can change a person’s personality. You knew them as sweet and kind individuals in their younger years but, now, they have turned into someone who is always angry, complaining, or even cruel.
It is not them acting out. Their illness has decreased their quality of life.
Seek comfort instead from other family members. Allow them to tell you that you are doing a good job caring for your loved one. Moreover, take consolation from the fact that you are doing the best you can and giving your senior loved one a comfortable life.
Take a Break Once in a While
If you decide to continue being a caregiver, remember to have time for yourself, too. You are allowed to take breaks once in a while. Otherwise, you will lose yourself from the role that you are trying to fulfill in the life of an elderly patient.
Do what you must do. You can take time out of your day to pray if you are religious or meditate if you are not. You should go out on a weekend, and ask another family member to take over, to see your friends, or have a quick vacation.
Caregivers are selfless and generous. However, they can feel stressed and burnt out from the thankless work that they do. To give their loved ones the best care, they need to take care of themselves, too.