According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and MetLife, workers who care for elderly relatives cost U.S. businesses over $34 billion annually in absenteeism. In addition, there are more than 25.5 million Americans who try to balance work, raising a young child and caring for an adult over the age of 50 at the same time.
These simple tips can help caregivers balance life and avoid burnout:
- Put your health first. Caring for an aging loved one can cause stress and anxiety. As much as you would like to put everything on hold, your loved one cannot be take care of if you are not well.
- Recognize the signs of caregiver burnout. Look for a change in appetite, irregular sleeping patterns or withdrawal from family and friends. Take steps to protect your own health. Don't be afraid to ask for help and learn coping techniques such as journaling or taking a relaxing walk.
- Educate yourself on your loved one's illness. Talk to your loved one's doctor and ask for online resources and brochures. The more educated you are, the better care you will be able to provide for your loved one.
- Seek support. Many nonprofit organizations offer support groups to help you get through this difficult time. You should remember that you don't have to go through this alone and that there are other people who may be in a situation similar to yours. Support groups can offer an outlet to vent frustrations and find alternative ways of dealing with stress.
- Make communication a priority. Hold regular family meetings to keep everyone informed on your loved one's condition. It's also a good idea to maintain open communication with your loved one. Start talking about the future now and make important decisions with your loved one about a living will and advanced directives.
- Learn your company's caregiving policies. Talk to your supervisor about your situation as many employers are sympathetic. Ask if your company offers basic elder care benefits and inquire about the Family Medical Leave Act. Eligible employees are granted up to 12 months to take care of an immediate family member with a serious condition. Discuss alternative arrangement such as working from home or different hours of work.