You know that beautiful page in Robert Munsch’s picture book Love You Forever when the man drives across town, literally picks his mother up, and rocks her back and forth?
Makes you cry every time, doesn’t it?
Of course. After all, the woman put up with everything you ever did (like flushing her watch down the toilet when you were two)!
You totally want to return the favor in caring for her.
And most days you’re doing it well.
But honestly, other days? You feel more like what your mama must have felt when she cleaned up after you.
No matter how much you love Mom and are thankful for all she’s done, caregiver burnout is STILL a real thing.
How can you get the rest you need to beat burnout while still honoring her?
We’ve got some ideas for you. (No crawling across the floor necessary!)
Beat Burnout Step #1: LAUGH
You’ve heard it: Laughter is the best medicine. And it turns out, it’s more than just a cliché.
Laughing releases endorphins (natural pain killers) and serotonin (natural antidepressants). It increases your blood flow, decreases heart inflammation, and helps dump stress hormones.
Beyond that, it just feels good!
- So while you’re sitting with Mom, why not get her talking about funny things that happened when she was young.
- If she struggles to remember? YOU do the talking. Remind her of funny memories from your childhood. Those things that at the time may have had her hair turning gray, but, looking back, are hysterical!
- Too tired to talk? Throw on an old-time favorite comedian in the DVD like Victor Borge. Not only is he timelessly hilarious, he may bring back memories your mom had of watching him with her own parents.
Beat Burnout Step #2: TAKE TIME for YOUR HOBBIES
Taking care of Mom doesn’t mean you cease to exist yourself.
- Do you love to garden? Grab a chair for her to sit outside and enjoy the sun while you get your hands dirty.
- Love to bake? Play around with her favorite recipes and taste-test them together.
- Love to draw? It’s the perfect chance to produce some art with her as the focus.
And if you are a part of the sandwich generation, i.e. taking care of your kids AND your mother, make your hobby a three-generation event. Try an in-home piano recital, dance party, exercise video, …
The ideas are endless but the value for your sanity is priceless.
Beat Burnout Step #3: PUT YOUR FEET UP
Nothing wears you out like hurting feet … or hurting emotions.
But sometimes to beat burnout, you need to take those feet somewhere else for a bit.
Get a pedicure or, better yet, a massage. Grab lunch with a friend. Go shopping.
But how are you going to manage that when your mom needs someone with her?
Depending on how much help she needs, you have options:
- Ask a friend (either one of yours or one of hers) to stay with her for a few hours.
- That college babysitter that you trusted to babysit your kids? Hire her to spend some time with your mom.
- For just a little more money, hire a certified nursing assistant (CNA) who can help Mom with basic activities of daily living like using the bathroom or dressing. (Be sure to check references.)
- Look for a local Adult Day Care center (ADC) where Mom can enjoy socializing and playing games with others her own age. After all, she may need a change of scenery herself!
Where do you find those last two? The CNAs or day cares?
Ask your primary physician for recommendations or check out your local Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC). They can direct you to help in your area that will fit your mother’s needs, even if she needs a full Registered Nurse.
It’s easy to feel guilty when it comes to taking time to rejuvenate yourself. But remember the age-old airplane directions:
You have to put that oxygen on yourself before you can help the person depending on you!
It’s time to give yourself permission to breathe fresh air.
Beat Burnout Step #4: DON’T FORGET YOUR KIDS and SPOUSE
Remember in Love You Forever, after he rocked his mama? He came home to rock his baby.
Unfortunately, over time, the constant juggling of kids and marriage and mama can really knock you out. You need more than just a few hours off.
It’s time to pack up and leave town!
Take a weekend. Take a week.
That’s why someone created a thing called Respite Care. You can take a break from caregiving and still know your mom is still in good hands:
Choose “in-home care services” for basic needs… “Home health care” for more medical needs….
Let Mom sample a Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF) for a few days. (Not sure what that means? Check out these differences in assisted living options.)
It can be her own vacation!
- She can taste the food.
- She can try the social activities and the field trips.
- She can enjoy time with people her own age.
- She can see if it’s a place she’d like to come to again.
And when you all return home, everyone will be more refreshed.
Beat Burnout Step #5: Check Out OTHER SUPPORT GROUPS for CAREGIVERS
Caring for your mom is too significant to do alone. And you don’t have to.
There are support programs for caregivers just like you!
These groups do everything from finding assistance for services to helping with depression and stress. They even provide training for proper care and may help you finish small home modifications to make living there safe for Mom.
Some of these programs?
- National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP)
- Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Family and Caregiver Support Program (AFSCP)
- Memory Care Connections and
- LEEPS (Language Enriched Exercise Plus Socialization Program)
With These Steps, Burnout DOESN’T Have to Mean Snuffed Out
Yes, caregiver burnout is a real thing. But it doesn’t have to be permanent.
With a few steps to take care of yourself here and there and finding support from those around you, you’ll soon be back singing with your mom again.
Because you know you’ll Love Her Forever!
Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.