Caring for a senior loved one can negatively affect a person’s mental wellness. So, to ensure you’re able to care for your aging friend or family member, you must take steps to maintain your own mental health.
In this piece, we’ll explain how a caregiver’s mental health can decline due to strains from caregiving, as well as ways to help maintain personal wellbeing.
Mental health warning signs
In a Forbes article, Howard Gleckman wrote that when family caregivers lack the skills to care for their family members, their lives become more complex.
For example, in this Forbes Q&A, Kate Washington, author of the book “Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America,” detailed how she was affected by caregiver stress:
“I definitely feel like I had after-effects from caregiving and lingering stress and burnout and kind of lingering anxiety as well.”
Washington went on to talk about how she experienced caregiver burnout. She suspects that burnout came from a variety of things, including:
- The intensity of being a caregiver
- Caregiving hours
- The emotional strain that caregiving puts a person through
“For many caregivers, it’s the unknown duration of the stress, the high-pressure economic challenges and sometimes interpersonal challenges. There’s very little respite,” Washington says. “Most people are doing caregiving behind closed doors. They feel exhausted and isolated and like nobody’s seeing them. And the result is this feeling of real fragility; being frazzled and having a really hard time with the necessary element of providing care, which is empathy. It burns people’s emotional candles so much that it saps the very thing that they’re trying to do in the first place.”
Maintaining mental health
Amy Flaster, chief medical officer for ConcertoCare, stated that family caregivers’ mental health could benefit from caregiver training.
Flaster claimed that training can help reduce “caregiver burden, stress and burnout, and it allows for even greater fulfillment in caring for a loved one.”
She continued that “Family members are often unpaid caregivers by default, and while many relish the experience, they need the support and training to endure and thrive in the role.”
If you’re interested in taking a caregiving course, Flaster recommends searching for courses with a holistic training curriculum. Course topics should include caregiver burden, stress, and burnout.
Washington added that family support and accepting help when offered (and knowing when to ask for help) are essential aspects of healthy mental wellbeing while caregiving. “Accept the help that you’re offered and ask for the help that you’re not offered,” she said. “And I think that people recognizing that their need for breaks is not selfish — it’s self-preservative — is critical.”