If you’re caring for an elderly parent, it’s likely you’ll be tired of the physical and mental energy needed by your aging loved one. It’s normal to be tired. But if you don’t take time to rest, you may suffer from compassion fatigue, also known as burnout.
- Excessive blaming
- Bottled up emotion
- Substance abuse
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor self-care, i.e., hygiene, eating habits, lack of sleep
- Apathy, sadness, loss of interest, lack of motivation for pleasurable activities
- Finally, the one nobody wants to talk about – elder abuse
This list is by no means exhaustive. But if you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you are probably suffering from compassion fatigue.
What can you do? Below are some ways to find refreshment in the caregiving season.
Physical refreshment. Find someone who can give you some respite. Determine if you need a few hours, a day, or more. Reach out to family, friends, neighbors, or a church family. Perhaps you have the means to hire a respite caregiver to give you some much-needed time off.
Emotional refreshment. Realize you don’t need to feel guilty for taking time off. Even Jesus withdrew from his disciples for a time. You can’t change your parents’ circumstance, only how you react to it. Perhaps you can plan a date night with your spouse, or a night out with friends.
Spiritual refreshment. Slow down, breathe, and pray. Talk to God about what you’re feeling. Start a prayer journal, listing the things you’re thankful for. Sometimes the very act of writing down our blessings helps see things in a new light.
In Hope for the Caregiver, Peter Rosenberger says, “Here’s a simple little prescription for becoming a better caregiver: carve out some quiet time every day.”
“I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” Psalm 62:5, NLT
I’ll be the first to admit that taking a break isn’t easy. When I prepare for a vacation, I need a spreadsheet to put everything together for my mother’s care. I prevail upon friends to provide meals. Neighbors are called to stop in and visit. Any doctor’s appointments have to be orchestrated with someone who can drive Mom to the clinic. I fill in every blank to be sure I’ve covered everything.
Most of the people I know who care for their parents, whether hands-on or not, say they face the same struggle. Finding someone to watch Mom or Dad so they can get away can feel like Mission Impossible. Friends are busy, and relatives have something else to do. It’s normal to feel like it just isn’t worth the effort of arranging care. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take a break, no matter how difficult. I hear your cry: I just need some time away!
Finally, consider getting involved in a caregiver support group. Family Caregiver Alliance, http://www.caregiver.org is a resource to help connect you to a local group. They also have an online group.
Take some time this week to ask the Lord to show you how you can take some well-deserved rest.