What is Caregiver Fatigue? – The Caring Generation®
The Caring Generation® – Episode 45 July 1, 2020. On this caregiver radio program, Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, answers the question What Is Caregiver Fatigue and talks about the Emotional Impact of Placing Loved Ones in Care Communities. More resources for exhausted caregivers are in Pamela’s online caregiver program.
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What is Caregiver Fatigue?
00:00 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.
00:48 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves, and loved ones all tied together with humor and laughter that are essential to being a caregiver.
01:14 Pamela D. Wilson: In this program, we will talk about ten scenarios to answer the question what is caregiver fatigue and how to manage being an exhausted caregiver. Caregiver fatigue can set in when we feel like we can’t do any more than we’re already doing. In some situations, being an exhausted caregiver results in a decision to place an elderly parent or a spouse into an assisted living community or a nursing home. While the exhausted caregiver might feel relief from the situation or relief from this idea, a corresponding feeling may be a lot of guilt. Caregivers have also been asking how to manage that emotional impact and feelings of guilt when having to place an elderly parent or spouse in a care community, assisted living, a memory care community, or even worse, a nursing home.
02:11 Pamela D. Wilson: We’ll talk about this topic in the second and third parts of this caregiver radio program. Let’s begin with scenario number one to answer the question, what is caregiver fatigue? This is the idea of life before and after becoming a caregiver. Before caregiving, you may have had control over your day and your activities for the most part. None of us can control everything—even though we would love to do so. Before caregiving, there may not have been a lot of unexpected surprises. You may have gotten a full eight hours or more of sleep every night. Today, you are an exhausted caregiver who feels like you have little control over life, and you’re running on that hamster wheel or that treadmill just trying to keep up, and you may feel it’s impossible.
03:05 Pamela D. Wilson: Another comparison is before and after the coronavirus. Imagine your life a year ago and how life is different today. The difference might be significant. In answering what is caregiver fatigue and why do you feel like an exhausted caregiver, you may be exhausted because, like most caregivers, you have a lot of tasks and a lot of projects to do that can feel overwhelming and never-ending.
03:34 Pamela D. Wilson: Compartmentalization is a technique that can be used to manage caregiver fatigue. What is this? To compartmentalize, you shift your focus away from thoughts, feelings, and that list of ten or twenty things that you have to do. So that you can focus on the now and a single priority for now.
03:55 Pamela D. Wilson: Scenario number two for what is caregiver fatigue is the idea of imbalance. The imbalance could be a lack of balance between your work, personal, and caregiving life. Imbalance could be that you feel you are doing everything for an elderly parent or spouse who you feel isn’t making any effort to help you out. In caregiving relationships, it may not be possible for efforts to be equal. Exhausted caregivers may be uncomfortable asking an elderly parent or a spouse to do more. It’s okay to ask. Not asking for help contributes to what is caregiver fatigue and being that exhausted caregiver. Encourage your elderly parents and spouses to do as much for themselves as possible.
04:43 Pamela D. Wilson: This idea leads us to scenario number three for what is caregiver fatigue. Exhausted caregivers may try to accomplish everything. Does this sound like you? The pressures of life with caregiving added to the mix equal kids in school, or at least you’re hoping that they go back to school in the fall. Working full-time, trying to maintain social commitments, and caring for elderly parents that may have you constantly running. Let’s say that you’re involved in projects for your church or the school your children attend. You haven’t told anyone that your time is being consumed by caring for an elderly parent because you don’t want to make excuses for being behind. As exhausted caregivers, it’s important to find a better balance between things we have to do, things we want to do, and the reality gap of what we can do without wearing ourselves out.
05:37 Pamela D. Wilson: Wanting life to be as it was before caregiving and continuing to try to do it all, answers that question what is caregiver fatigue. It can be easy to fall into the trap also of grieving a more carefree life. You might be turning down invitations from friends to go out. Instead, what are you doing? You’re going to your elderly parent’s home to help them. You’re watching social media posts by friends, and you wish that you were that person boating on the lake instead of picking up prescriptions and running errands. There are times when life seems unfair. What to do? Look back at your life. Were there times that you had to change your approach to a situation? How did you adjust and work it all out?
06:21 Pamela D. Wilson: When exhausted caregivers consider new strategies and thoughts, this can lead to solutions that you might not have thought about. It’s easy to be stuck in that rut. Thoughts like, “why do I have to change?” “Why do things always happen to me?” “Why is life so difficult?” We all think these things now and then if we’re honest. The question of what is caregiver fatigue benefits from new and consistent approaches. Grieving a more carefree life when we have caregiving issues we refuse to address can throw us off-track. If we accept that there will always be something in life that comes up to get in the way of something we want to do, we can start to think about creating backup plans for self-care and adopt a mindset of being flexible.
07:14 Pamela D. Wilson: Solutions to grieving a more carefree life include making little plans to get ahead of the unexpected. This means finding small blocks of time for you. For example, if you like to read, always have a book or a magazine in the car. If you crochet or embroider, put your craft kit in your vehicle. Reading materials and crafts come in very handy at doctor appointments and other times when you have to wait. Crafts and reading are a great distraction from worry. If you find yourself constantly on the run, have some pre-made meals in the freezer. When you cook, make enough so that you have leftovers. If you enjoy exercising, make time for exercise first thing in the morning, or keep a gym bag in your car so that you can take a walk after work or stop off at the gym on the way home. Be flexible. Be human.
08:10 Pamela D. Wilson: When real life happens. When the unexpected happens. When caregiving situations happen, then you’ll be the one who has plans to fit in the things that matter to you, and you will have a flexible mindset so that you don’t react negatively to the unexpected and have highs and lows in your emotional balance. Focus on what you can do now that brings a little bit of life before caregiving back into your life. Realize that having large blocks of uninterrupted time may not be possible for now. Create small blocks of your time with activities that you enjoy every day.
08:49 Pamela D. Wilson: Helpful information and practical tips for caregivers and aging adults is in my Caring for Aging Parents Caregiving blog on my website at PamelaDWilson.com as well as podcasts of this and all caregiver radio programs on my Caring Generation Radio page. This is Pamela D. Wilson on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
11:39 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, I’m your host. This is The Caring Generation radio show for caregivers, live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio.
11:51 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s shift subjects from caregiver fatigue and exhaustion to the idea of placing an elderly parent or a spouse in a care community. When we look at the idea of moving a loved one, the perspectives of adult children and spouses are very different because of being in two different stages of life. If we look at millennial caregivers who today are between the ages of 26 and 40, their life experiences are vastly different from caregivers who may be in their 60s and 70s, or elderly parents who may be 70-80 years old.
12:25 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s start by talking about millennials, many who are in the process of building careers and having families. About one in four millennials become caregivers for elderly parents, so 25%. Being a millennial caregiver for an elderly parent represents life interrupted. Studies by AARP confirmed that millennial caregivers spend an average of 21 hours a week caring for an elderly parent, including performing personal care tasks. The idea of life interrupted for millennial caregivers results in feeling like they’re trying to do the best in all areas of life, and maybe it’s just not happening. Millennial and other caregivers juggle work and life. Some millennial caregivers are saying, “Oh, I’m not sure if I can get married. I don’t know how caring for an elderly parent will affect my career if I have to continue to take mom or dad to doctor appointments.” Others are saying, “well, maybe having children is not such a good idea.”
13:20 Pamela D. Wilson: All of these issues are important for all caregivers, but mostly for the millennial caregivers right now, many who do think about placing elderly parents in care communities, because their parents can no longer live independently. The caregiving responsibilities, though, they don’t disappear. At the time a loved one moves into a care community, the responsibility shifts from providing in-home care to overseeing and providing care in a residential community. Healthcare providers manage medical care, and while they might be aware of caregiving responsibilities, doctors and nurses usually aren’t saying to the caregiver, “well, how are you? How can I help you?” The focus is usually on the person who needs care, which is logical. But this is the reason that caregivers have to seek caregiver education, training, and support.
14:08 Pamela D. Wilson: Millennial and younger caregivers look at life from a longer timeframe. They have to care for themselves, build a career, save for retirement, have their families. Yet these aspects of caregiving can derail a lot of these plans. This is the reason that, in my opinion, companies should develop programs for family caregivers, just as they have programs for families with children. What the workplace hasn’t realized yet is that many of these families raising children are also now caring for elderly parents at the same time. Who is the most affected? It’s women. Women have children and then become responsible for the care of elderly parents. Sons become caregivers when sisters or women don’t exist or aren’t available.
14:51 Pamela D. Wilson: There’s been a lot of discussion about people most affected by the coronavirus: It’s people with chronic diseases. The people most affected by caregiving? It’s women. If we take the idea of the coronavirus and women caregivers, think of this. The coronavirus has shut down child care centers and schools. State governments are debating when, if, or how school should be open. Who is most affected? It’s women who are thinking about quitting their jobs, reducing work schedules, or turning down promotions because there aren’t a lot of options if you have young children. Similar situations happen for women caring for elderly parents. When elderly parents need more care, and the workplace isn’t flexible to allow taking elderly parents to doctor appointments, what do women do? They may quit their jobs, refuse a promotion, work part-time. Having children and caring for elderly parents may place millennial and other caregivers at a significant long-term financial disadvantage.
15:52 Pamela D. Wilson: The aspect of having different goals and timeframes is the main difference between caregivers who are adult children versus spousal caregivers. Older children who are 60-70 also have a different timeframe and a different scenario for caring for parents who are 80 to 90 to 100 years old. Caregiving forces millennials to accept the responsibility of caring for an elderly parent. While millennials may experience guilt when elderly parents are placed in care communities, it’s impossible for that millennial caregiver to continue to absorb care expenses for elderly parents who don’t have the money to pay for care and for those millennials to support themselves and their families. At this point, Medicaid and public assistance become the options. Medicaid pays for some in-home services under the HCBS waiver, and for nursing home care under long-term care programs. Programs and qualifications differ by state. Waiting lists to be approved for the program, and then access services can be several months, in some cases, several years.
17:00 Pamela D. Wilson: If you are a young or a millennial caregiver, or really, any caregiver, I recommend becoming aware of all the options for care as early as possible and talking to elderly parents about money and care wishes today. You also want to become educated about medical and financial power of attorney, a living will, and a will. There are a lot of aspects of caregiving. A lot of conversations that families should be having so that realistic plans to minimize guilty feelings by the caregiver can be put in place. While guilt will always exist, caregivers have the opportunity to learn about caregiving from the experience that you’re having with elderly parents. This experience, for me, more than 20 years ago with the death of my mother and then my father, made me aware of everything that can go wrong, and it led me to this 20-plus year of helping caregivers and older adults avoid the things that happened in my family. Caregiver support and education, it’s priceless. Learning what you don’t know. Learning what questions to ask. Learning how to coordinate care and many other aspects can save you a lot of stress, a lot of worry that isn’t necessary, and that really causes caregiver fatigue.
18:13 Pamela D. Wilson: This leads us to another difference between adult children and elderly spouse caregivers. Younger adults are more interested in education in person, online, or in groups, because of having a longer-term view of life and an interest in education. If you’re a millennial caregiver, unless something unexpected happens to you, you’re probably going to live another 40, 50, maybe even 60 years. This is the difference between younger caregivers and older caregivers who have a different perspective on life, work, and raising families.
18:46 Pamela D. Wilson: We’ll continue our conversation after this break about spousal caregivers and placing loved ones in care communities. Follow me on social media, on Facebook, watch my videos, follow me, and share posts. My page is PamelaDWilson.page. On Twitter, I am @CaregivingSpeak. On Instagram, I am @wilsonpamelad. On LinkedIn, I am pameladwilsoncaregiverexpert. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, your host for The Caring Generation live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
21:34 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host for The Caring Generation on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Visit my website, www.PamelaDWilson.com. Check out my caregiving library and my membership site where there are free articles and paid education courses for caregivers.
21:52 Pamela D. Wilson: We’re back to talk about the emotional aspects of a spouse, placing a spouse in a care community, and why these parents think that their children—who might be helping with caregiving responsibilities—don’t understand. Understanding goes both ways. When I was in my early twenties, I was a regular visitor for my uncle, who didn’t understand why I couldn’t visit more and spend more time with him. I explained that I was like millennials today, I was working full-time, supporting myself, and I was going to college four nights a week. My time and my days were very scheduled, and my uncle didn’t understand. He was married all of his life. Never had children. My aunt, who had passed away, always took care of him. She didn’t work. And there was a 50-year gap between our ages, and this difference in his life experience of being taken care of versus mine of having to take care of me, he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t spend more time with him.
22:45 Pamela D. Wilson: Spousal caregivers who are in their 70s or 80s, they may have the same idea about their children. Not understanding why their kids can’t show up more. And the challenges are, by this time in life, elderly spouses can lose friends to death or to distance. Caregiving can result in spousal caregivers having fewer friends and becoming less socially engaged, so they rely more on their children. And then you have the factor of guilt and the loss of a companion when you move a spouse into a care community. Some spouses will move into that care community with the sick spouse, even if they have to live in a different area of that community because of needed care. But both of those situations can result in more stress, more emotions. A spouse who is placed can feel like they’re being left behind.
23:33 Pamela D. Wilson: A lot of spouses think that the emotional stress will lessen by moving a husband or a wife to a care community, and many find this not to be true because they lose control of the care situation. Now, they’re worried about whether the care staff in the care communities are doing their job to take care of their spouse. It’s as if the role of that primary caregiver changes from the spouse to the staff in the care community. And watching all of this becomes a stressful for spouses. Especially spouses who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
24:03 Pamela D. Wilson: Some spouses, though, do get a lot of meaning out of visiting and spending time with a spouse who lives in a care community. And sometimes spouses may meet other caregivers in their care communities. But they don’t extend those relationships to be friendships outside of the community, where, if adult children caregivers do this, sometimes they will make friends with those caregivers because they have a lot of commonalities.
24:28 Pamela D. Wilson: Other differences are that elderly spouses may be less information-seeking than adult children caregivers. Interest in seeking information about caregiving can be due also to technology gaps for the elderly spouse caregiver. If they’re not good on the computer or good on a cellphone. Add to this that spouse or caregiver who’s healthy could also have health issues, and maybe their children are helping them out versus visiting that sick parent in a care community. A lot of issues with time limitations for children who are working, and they have to decide, “Am I going to go see my sick dad in a care community, or am I going to help my healthy mother out?” That can result in resentment from parents who think that the kids should be able to do both things. Then we add on the fact that the sick spouse realizes that they are a burden if they have a lot of health issues. And that can result in complications. More work for the healthier spouse. More work for the children and that spouse feels bad.
25:28 Pamela D. Wilson: In either situation, caregivers can fall into a pattern of just worrying about nothing is going right, or feeling that everything is happening, it’s wrong. We all have days or sometimes even periods of time when the going gets a little rough, and one problem after another seems to be the pattern, and it never stops. The more we try to do good, the worse situations may become. If we can put situations in perspective, we may realize that everything isn’t going wrong. But maybe things are just going wrong today, or maybe today things aren’t going well, and if we wake up tomorrow, it will all be different. If we can focus on what is going well and build on the good and the blessings in our life, it might be a little easier to feel less like our world is falling apart.
26:15 Pamela D. Wilson: Every problem and challenge has a solution if we’re willing to move our mind from the negative to the positive. Sometimes when we get stuck, we just may not be able to think of other solutions. There’s that saying by Albert Einstein: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Another quote: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”
26:42 Pamela D. Wilson: What did Einstein mean by this? He meant that the quality of the solutions that we develop for that problem is in proportion to our ability to figure out what is the problem that we want to solve. Sometimes the problem is figuring out what the problem is. To do this, we want to think of all the factors involved and then figure out where to go from there. If you’re trying to decide whether to place an elderly parent or a sick spouse in a care community, think about what problem you’re trying to solve. Is it physical or emotional exhaustion for you, the caregiver? Do you want more time to yourself? Thinking that might have you feeling a little guilty. Do you feel that you are too exhausted to provide good care? Are you short-tempered, resentful, or angry, and you want to feel differently? What problems will be solved by placing a parent in a care community? What new problems might be created? That’s what we don’t think about. How do you expect to feel? How will a spouse or an elderly parent feel about being moved to a care community? What can mom, dad, or a husband, or a wife expect from this change?
27:55 Pamela D. Wilson: Placing a loved one in a care community, it is never, ever an easy decision. When the health and well-being of the caregiver is at risk, though, sometimes placing a spouse or a parent, it’s the best choice for the caregiver, and really, for the spouse or the parent, because while caregivers don’t want to admit that they can’t do it all, eventually, caregiving can get to a point where the amount and the type of care is really more than what you can provide, and you’re not doing the best job. You’re not providing the best care for a spouse or for an elderly parent, and that only makes you feel more guilty. It only makes you feel more stressed, and you may be watching your elderly parent or a spouse get sick, and their health decline.
28:43 Pamela D. Wilson: We are headed off to a break. The podcast of this show and all shows are available on your favorite podcast sites: Apple, Google Spreaker, Spotify, Stitcher, Pandora, iHeart, Castbox, Amazon Alexa, and more. Follow, like, and share The Caring Generation podcast with family members and other caregivers that you know. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, your host on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
31:32 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host, you’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio.
31:44 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s return to answer the question, what is caregiver fatigue, and what are tips for exhausted caregivers? Scenario four for what is caregiver fatigue is mental fatigue. Mental fatigue is a condition that results from prolonged cognitive or brain activity. It can also result from health issues like depression, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. How do you know if you’re mentally fatigued? You might have difficulty concentrating. You might be a little more irritable than usual. Have a loss of interest in certain activities that require brainpower.
32:17 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s look at a few scenarios for exhausted caregivers to answer that question of what is caregiver fatigue and how caregiver fatigue relates to mental fatigue. In caring for elderly parents, you have a lot of decisions to make. You’re trying to accomplish a lot of tasks in a small amount of time. You might be at work. You’re shifting your attention from one thing to another. You’re multitasking. Maybe you’re having mood swings that are up and down. To relieve that mental fatigue, look at your time as valuable and decide who and what gets your time and realize that one of those persons happens to be you. [chuckle] Set time aside for social media and email rather than allowing social media to interrupt your entire day. Cross items off your project lists that make you feel good about doing. Take back some of that wasted time, and get rid of mental fatigue.
33:10 Pamela D. Wilson: Scenario number five for what is caregiver fatigue is that feeling of being constantly on edge. Another term that you might have heard for this, it’s called hyper-vigilance. That’s the mental state of being on high alert. Having you be worried about the next time the phone rings. It’s a call from an elderly parent, bad news, a fall, something else. You might find that worry consumes your days. In a prior caregiving radio program called Living With Elderly Parents, my guest, who was Ruth Lippin, talked about having a worry diary and scheduling worry time as a solution for feeling constantly on edge or anxious.
33:48 Pamela D. Wilson: Emotional triggers are another subject that can set off your emotions. So if you keep a diary for a couple of weeks of situations that make you feel anxious or a little irritable, you can figure out what these emotional triggers are. Then you can make a list of things that are important to you and your level of anxiety and decide which ones you’re going to worry about and which ones you are going to try to just let go. When you have an understanding of those things that make you feel hyper-vigilant or constantly on edge, you can make the choice to press that pause button and stop that feeling and think about it.
34:26 Pamela D. Wilson: So here’s a simple example from a caregiver. This particular caregiver was cleaning the house one day, and her mother walked by and just started watching the caregiver. And the caregiver asked her mom, “Well, is there anything that you need? Can I help you with anything?” And the mom said, “Well, you know, I was just thinking about how I would do that job that you’re doing differently.” So under normal circumstances, this caregiver would have blown a gasket. She would have snapped back at her mother. But instead, she laughed internally and realized how absurd the situation was. She chose not to allow her mother’s words to upset her. The caregiver decided to not take that bait of her mother trying to start an argument. She just laughed and let it go.
35:11 Pamela D. Wilson: Identifying your triggers or your emotional upsets may be a little easier than you think. Next time you feel your temper or your blood pressure rising, ask yourself what’s going on. What you’re feeling, and why you’re feeling, and just press that pause button. Choose to respond differently. Wisdom does exist a lot in looking at the absurdity of life and finding ways to laugh.
35:34 Pamela D. Wilson: Scenario six for what is caregiver fatigue and being an exhausted caregiver is the idea—you’ll like this one—of taking naps. According to sleepfoundation.org, napping is a very important aspect of many cultures. A short nap of 20-30 minutes can improve your mood, alertness, and performance.
35:52 Pamela D. Wilson: There are three types of naps. One is a planned nap. That happens when you know that you might be up later than your normal bedtime. So you take a nap earlier in the day so that you can stay up later, and you’re not falling asleep while you’re out with friends. The second type of napping is emergency napping. Exhausted caregivers asking, “what is caregiver fatigue” may be well aware of emergency napping. This happens when you’re so tired, your eyes are closing. You can’t continue the activity that you’re doing, and you just decide to take a nap. Emergency napping could be an example of driving a car, and you’re feeling drowsy, or you drift off for a moment while you’re driving. Very dangerous situation. If that’s you, pull off the road, take a 20-30 minute nap. Get some caffeine, some coffee, before you get back on the road again.
36:37 Pamela D. Wilson: The third type of napping is habitual napping. How many of you remember—this is my memory—as a child, my mom always wanted me to take an afternoon nap. So we would lay down and take a nap, and she would probably pretend to fall asleep, and when I would wake up, of course she would never be there. [chuckle] You also may have an elderly parent who takes a short nap every day after lunch. Naps work great for exhausted caregivers who may not get a full night’s sleep. Research shows, though, that more benefits come from short naps. 10, 20, 30 minutes. Anything longer than 30 minutes, you might feel groggier than before the nap. If you’re at work, a short period of meditation can replace a nap. Find a quiet room. Go sit in your car. Set your cellphone alarm for 20 minutes and take a quick break so that you don’t accidentally fall asleep for longer than that. [chuckle] That short period of a nap or meditation may be just what an exhausted caregiver needs to finish out the workday and have the energy to go to mom and dad’s that night and be a caregiver after work. What is caregiver fatigue comes by other names like caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue. If this is you, finding time for self-care is even more important.
37:55 Pamela D. Wilson: Coming up after this break, we’re going to continue to talk about what is caregiver fatigue, and I’ll share more tips for exhausted caregivers, especially for some healthcare workers. Healthcare workers experience caregiver fatigue, but sometimes it’s called compassion fatigue.
38:12 Pamela D. Wilson: Follow me on social media, on my Facebook page, it’s PamelaDWilson.page. Listen to podcasts of this show. They’ll be up on my website in about a week. You go to www.PamelaDWilson.com, click on the media tab, and you scroll down. That will take you to The Caring Generation radio page. There, now, I think are about 45, 46 podcast there on all kinds of subjects. These subjects are requested by caregivers. If you have ideas for future radio shows, you can also go to my website, www.PamelaDWilson.com. The top bar has a dropdown called the Contact me button. If you click on the Contact me button, you can send me an email with future show ideas. That’s how I come up for the ideas of most of these shows. This is Pamela D. Wilson, you are listening to The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
41:26 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, author, and speaker, on The Caring Generation, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Information for corporations and human resource departments about caregiving training and education on-site or through online caregiving, video conferencing, and programs is on my website at PamelaDWilson.com.
41:49 Pamela D. Wilson: We’re back with more scenarios for what is caregiver fatigue and dealing with being an exhausted caregiver. Scenario seven is the idea of an overbearing or over-controlling caregiver. Caregiver fatigue can result in becoming that overbearing or over-controlling caregiver. Overbearing caregivers become so worried about something going wrong that they try to control every aspect of life for an elderly parent or a spouse. When exhausted caregivers pass caregiver fatigue, they lose perspective. Perspective is the way that we perceive people or situations or ideas, and we base perspective on our own personal experience. Add the component of worry to caregiving situations, and perspectives can disappear. Caregivers can stop using reason. They might become pessimistic or depressed. Exhausted caregivers can become insecure, critical, defensive, desperate, lonely, resentful, overwhelmed, and sometimes aggressive toward other family members or even healthcare professionals who might be trying to help. Losing perspective can make caregivers say and do things that they may regret. It’s as if our brain just shuts off. [chuckle]
43:00 Pamela D. Wilson: What is caregiver fatigue? It’s a loss of perspective that also may result in trying to isolate a spouse or an elderly parent to protect them. Some of those situations require family or legal intervention when an elderly parent or spouse can’t speak up for themselves, and maybe they’re viewed as being vulnerable. If you’re a family member watching this, one of the first steps to take is obviously to try to talk to that overbearing or controlling caregiver. As you know, that might be unsuccessful. If the situation progresses and they’re not allowing visits or phone calls, you can hire an attorney, or you can make a report to adult protective services or even to the police to ask them to investigate. It’s really a logical step to investigate the effects of what is caregiver fatigue on your brother or sister, and whether your sibling or your parent is exhausted. Adult protective services is a county agency. They are responsible for investigating situations of potential elder abuse. A lot of families are afraid of them, but they’re really—it’s a good thing. More information about what Adult Protective Services is and how APS works with families, it’s in a podcast of mine called What To Do When Siblings Won’t Help With Elderly Parents. I interviewed Eden Ruiz-Lopez; she was from the National Center on Elder Abuse. Very helpful interview.
44:19 Pamela D. Wilson: That idea leads us to scenario number eight for what is caregiver fatigue and being an exhausted caregiver. It’s the idea of education and prevention. Although when caregivers hear words “education” and “prevention,” they might think, “Ah! That just sounds like more work.” Well, my response is, “It depends.” If you’re an exhausted caregiver, what about your care situation would you like to change? In thinking about what is caregiver fatigue, are you thinking that the current situation is okay, and you’re okay if it continues indefinitely for, like, years? Caregivers tell me that they struggle with how to make care situations better. Many caregivers wait to ask for help until situations get really bad.
45:06 Pamela D. Wilson: Why does that happen? Waiting to change a situation until it gets terrible happens for many reasons, some of which we’ve discussed: That imbalance in caregiving situations, trying to do it all, experiencing mental fatigue, being on edge, and being that exhausted, overbearing caregiver. Some caregivers feel like they’ve lost everything and that there’s nothing that can be done. In these situations, it’s an education gap. A gap exists in knowing the steps to take to make problems seem less overwhelming. How many of you have heard the statement, “What we resist persists”? Resistance is one of the many lessons in life for caregivers. We see resistance in the workplace, in personal relationships, and in caregiving relationships with loved ones. Our parents resist care. We resist asking for help. Exhausted caregivers can give up hope and any belief that any type of change will work.
46:06 Pamela D. Wilson: Caregiving change involves relationship aspects and task aspects. A task aspect could be taking a caregiving course, making time for the course, engaging in practicing actions to reach success, maybe trying to have conversations with elderly parents. The social elements involve why a caregiver would want to put forth the effort to learn. Well, it’s to reduce caregiver fatigue. By learning how to help elderly parents be more physically independent, an exhausted caregiver may be able to devote less time to hands-on care. What if the caregiver learned how to make low-carbohydrate meals, and that’s the task that resulted in an elderly parent feeling better because mom or dad’s blood sugar readings are lower? As a result, mom or dad gets out of bed every single day, and you know what, they feel better. You have less to do. For caregivers, the idea of education and learning about prevention can seem like work, but in the long run, over the years, that work can save you time, exhaustion, fatigue, and it leads us to scenario nine for what is caregiver fatigue: It’s the idea of that short-term versus long-term thinking.
47:22 Pamela D. Wilson: When we become a caregiver, we have no idea that this is going to last for a year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. Many caregivers become caregivers for the long-term, never really thinking about the effect that caregiving will have on every single aspect of life and family relationships. That, in part, not thinking about the long term, is a recipe for caregiver exhaustion and fatigue. As the years of being a caregiver continue year after year, caregivers—even though you know that it’s the right thing to do— you can feel burdened by being a caregiver. We’ll talk more about caregiver burden in the last part of this program, and we’ll look at scenario nine for what is caregiver fatigue and exhaustion and things that we can do to relieve that for ourselves as caregivers.
48:13 Pamela D. Wilson: I invite you to listen, to like, to follow, and share The Caring Generation podcast for caregivers. You can visit the radio program page on my website that has instructions for listening, liking, and following the show. All you do is push a button. It’s really easy. Go to PamelaDWilson.com, click on the media tab, and then The Caring Generation program tab. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving author, expert, and speaker. This is The Caring Generation, live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me, we’ll be right back after this break.
51:07 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving exert, I’m your host. This is The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio.
51:20 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s talk about what is caregiver fatigue from the perspective of caregiver burden. Aspects of caregiving contribute to the idea of feelings of burden. These include being a female caregiver living with mom or dad. It includes caregivers who are depressed or socially isolated. Caregiver burden involves being worried about money, and also caregivers who feel that they had no choice but to be that caregiver. Also, the idea of worrying about, “Well, how long is caregiving going to last? Is it a year? Is it five years? Ten? Twenty?” Also, the idea of what can caregivers and families do differently? When care recipients have growing needs that relate to needing more hands-on care, those who have more memory loss, caregiving can be more stressful for the caregiver.
52:17 Pamela D. Wilson: So if on day one of caregiving, you knew this would be a 15-year project, what would you do differently? Scenario 10 for what is caregiver fatigue is taking this idea of the long-term further, is what caregivers say would be helpful. Let’s see if you agree. A lot of caregivers say that they feel unprepared to manage the physical and health aspects of being a caregiver. Symptoms for parents, like pain, nausea, managing chronic diseases, watching elderly parents experience more physical weakness. They’re unprepared for that. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Caregivers say that these experiences result in emotional distress, caregiver fatigue, burden, and it’s why they’re so tired. Feelings of different types of loss, sadness, anxiety, and depression are reported by caregivers who are asking what is caregiver fatigue. Grief is another feeling experienced by both the caregiver and the spouse or the elderly parent.
53:17 Pamela D. Wilson: What are caregivers asking for? Many want to feel less stressed, more confident in the care that they provide to elderly parents. They want more time for themselves. Professional caregivers, like CNAs in nursing homes and care communities, they want to feel competent and confident about the care that they’re providing. They also want PPE right now. So how do we get there? Improving caregiving situations is really an individual choice. The problem that you identify that you want to change may be different from another caregiver. Ask yourself what barriers would have to be removed to make it easier for you to take action.
53:56 Pamela D. Wilson: Common barriers are fear. It’s the number one reason that a lot of us don’t change. Instead, we make excuses why we can’t change. Denial. That’s another one. Very common. Or the person sometimes who needs care may deny that they need help or that they have to change something that they’re doing. Being defensive is another reason that changing caregiving situations can be difficult. Caregivers, elderly parents—we don’t like to admit that we made a mistake, or maybe we should be doing something differently. Some people will blame others for their circumstances, and that really is just a dead end. That gets us nowhere. As caregivers, it’s up to us to take responsibility to figure out what problem we want to solve to stop being that exhausted caregiver so that we can answer the question of what is caregiver fatigue for ourselves and how do we have more energy.
54:54 Pamela D. Wilson: Next week, our subject is work-life challenges for caregivers. We’re going to talk about male caregivers. Dr. Monika Lopez-Anuarbe joins us. She’s done some research about male caregivers, the emotional, financial, and physical burdens of what male caregivers experience. We don’t talk about that enough. Caregivers, family, and professionals, speak up. Ask for what you need from your families and from the workplace so that you get the help and support that you need. Help and support is here every Wednesday night on The Caring Generation radio show. It’s also on my website, PamelaDWilson.com, where you can find my caregiving library, videos, and all the podcasts of these shows. This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. God bless you all, caregivers. Sleep well tonight, have a fabulous day tomorrow, and a great week until we are together again.
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Looking For Answers to Common Caregiving Questions? The Caring Generation Library for Caregivers is an extensive resource for caregivers.