Caregiving is mentally and emotionally taxing, especially when the care is coming from a loved one. Family caregivers often put their regular lives on hold to care for an aging family member, meaning that they’re handling a major lifestyle transition along with implications of their loved one’s declining health. This is enough to cause anyone emotional distress, and the frequent feeling of boredom may come as a result.
Caregiving doesn’t take place in a bustling office. It doesn’t involve great amounts of interaction with other people, or feelings of accomplishment from the success of a project. Caregivers are tasked with mundane, everyday tasks – some of which are flat-out unpleasant. No matter how much you love the person you’re caring for, dedicating 24 hours out of every single day to tend to their needs is a difficult feat.
Not every moment of your life as a caregiver will be fulfilling. In fact, satisfying moments as a caregiver may be few and far between. Tasks like filling out medical forms and making appointments are tedious and time-consuming. But, in any situation, you can strive for personal growth that will greatly enrich your life outside of caregiving.
Below you’ll find insights into caregiver boredom and how it may be effectively tackled. Caregiving may be necessary, but you can come out of it having learned valuable lessons.
The value of human interaction
As a caregiver, your main source of human interaction is the person you’re providing care for. For family caregivers, this is typically a parent, an older relative, or even an older sibling. You’re spending virtually every minute of every day in each other’s company, so finding new topics to discuss quickly becomes a challenge. Limited conversation and long stretches of silence are some of the quickest avenues to prolonged caregiver boredom.
Social interaction is a key component to a healthy life. The absence of regular social interaction can lead to health complications including depression, elevated blood pressure, and age-related disorders (NIH). Social connections are even shown to help with longevity; people who maintain vibrant social lives tend to live longer and experience fewer health complications (The New York Times).
Isolation is a common and concerning issue among caregivers – the feeling of isolation can accompany or precede feelings of boredom. In a study of family caregivers of individuals with dementia, caregivers reported increased feelings of isolation with increased care responsibilities. It may be more difficult to lean on friends for support, as free time becomes limited and certain friends may be uncomfortable being around the person needing care. While this situation presents difficulty in and of itself, it may help you identify people you can reliably turn to for support.
It goes without saying that caregiving isn’t an occupation that inherently lends itself to diverse social circles and frequent human interaction. But, by making your social life outside of caregiving a priority, you can gain fulfillment from human interaction and get much-needed breaks at the same time. This idea leads us to the importance of caregiver respite.
The need for caregiver respite
Respite for caregivers is essential for managing feelings of boredom and stress. Without regular periods of respite, caregivers will end up run down, unmotivated, and may even start building feelings of resentment.
Caregiver respite benefits everyone involved in the care process. The person being cared for will continue to be safe and well-tended to, with care just temporarily coming from a different source. At the same time, the caregiver will have much-needed time to take a break, both mentally and physically. Respite can also renew the caregiver’s ability to perform well in their position, which enhances the well-being of both the caregiver and the person being cared for.
In your time of respite as a caregiver, balance taking time for yourself and spending time with friends. This will help you gain the social interaction that you’re likely missing on a day-to-day basis, but also take time for rest and self-care. Social settings and alone time are both important as a caregiver; an effective respite schedule will give you time for both.
Caregiver respite comes in different forms. Not every type of respite may be available in your area, and some respite programs may be out of reach for other reasons. But, it’s possible to find or create a respite program to suit your needs.
Here are common examples of caregiver respite to research in your area:
- Adult daycare
- In-home care services
- Caregiver Counseling and support groups
- Respite voucher programs to provide caregivers with temporary help
- Temporary stays at residential care facilities
Making the most of down time
When you find yourself frequently bored as a caregiver, it’s all too easy to become trapped in the mindset of believing that it will never get better. Boredom happens, but it’s not inevitable. By making subtle shifts to your mindset as a caregiver, you may find that you can reduce boredom over time.
The next time you feel stuck and bored as a caregiver, try focusing your mind on the present moment. You may have visited this doctor’s office countless times before, but you may take the opportunity to observe your surroundings. Enjoy people watching for a while; consider the lives of those around you. Perhaps strike up a conversation with a fellow caregiver. Instead of dwelling on the feeling of boredom, you may practice mindfulness as a tool to keep life interesting.
Caregiving also involves a great deal of downtime. By taking time to reflect on your goals and interests, you can plan ahead for productive uses of this time. Here are some examples:
- Explore new genres and authors in literature.
- Try learning a new language.
- Take a part-time online course that allows you to work when you can.
- Have a pen pal – you can write them letters during your spare time.
- Take up a crafty hobby like embroidery, knitting, painting, or scrapbooking.
A healthy, balanced approach to caregiving can help family caregivers to not only avoid boredom but also find a valuable sense of fulfillment. Being a caregiver can be rewarding and even have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing. But, this requires awareness of and preparation for boredom, stress, and difficulties. By respecting the need for respite, making productive use of downtime, and prioritizing the need for outside human interaction, caregivers can significantly enhance their quality of life. When caregivers take care of themselves, they’re better equipped to take excellent care of their loved one.
Bronwyn, Ivy. “Caregiver Boredom: 24 Hours Either Too Much or Too Little.” Psych Central.com, Psych Central Network, 13 July 2019, blogs.psychcentral.com/full-heart/2019/07/caregiver-boredom-24-hours-either-too-much-or-too-little.
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Brody, Jane E. “Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 June 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html.
“For the Elderly, Fighting Boredom Is Essential for Quality of Life.” Parentgiving and Elderly Care, Parentgiving, Inc., www.parentgiving.com/elder-care/senior-engagement-fighting-boredom-is-essential-for-quality-of-life/.
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“Research Suggests a Positive Correlation between Social Interaction and Health.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nia.nih.gov/about/living-long-well-21st-century-strategic-directions-research-aging/research-suggests-positive.
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Schempp, Donna. “Emotional Side of Caregiving.” Family Caregiver Alliance, Family Caregiver Alliance, www.caregiver.org/emotional-side-caregiving.