By Carolyn Rosenblatt
Many caregivers suffer from burnout. While you can't change your aging parents' condition, you can do things for yourself. First, I'd recommend a physical exam. Report your symptoms of feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Sometimes a physician will recommend medication to help control the things that make it hard for you to function day to day. Medication is a kind of support, and is worth a try if your doctor thinks it will help. You may need to ask for it. It can certainly help with anxiety. Next, it might make sense for you to have the support of others in your situation. Is there a support group in your area? Can you join an online support group? As an example, the Alzheimer's Association offers such groups, as does the Family Caregiver Alliance and of course, here at AgingCare.com
Search for caregiver support groups and try one out. It can be a big relief just to share the everyday burdens with other caregivers who may be feeling as you do. Also, consider respite for yourself. You need and deserve time to "recharge your batteries".
No one has to feel guilty about taking time off. We all need it. Is there someone who can take over for you for a few days off? Can you get away, even if it's just to turn off the responsibility for a period to rest and not think about your job of caregiving? Periods of rest are essential to doing a good job of caregiving.
Maintaining your own mental health in this way will reduce your anxiety and allow you to recover from the sources of your distress, from time to time. Finally, I'm a firm believer in walking as therapy. It's purposeful exercise, gentle, stress-relieving and it can be your mini-respite work that you can do daily. If you have any mobility problems yourself, there are substitutes just about anyone can use. The point is that some exercise every day, even for 20 minutes, can do a great deal to reduce the anxiety and alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed.
It changes the stress-induced metabolic response your body goes through when you're feeling uptight. Think about building some form of exercise into your busy schedule. By protecting your own physical and emotional well-being, you will be able to focus better and continue to do your best for your parents.
Carolyn Rosenblatt is a registered nurse and attorney who has 40 years of experience. She is the author of "The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents." Read her full biography