Burnout and Aging Parents

Sometimes when you have a consuming problem, it can so take over your life that you let go of the rest of life’s responsibilities and relationships. That is certainly a danger that caregivers face. It is easy to become so wrapped up in the demands of being a good caregiver for your aging parent or loved one that the rest of the world seems to disappear. That is also how many caregivers burnout before their task is complete.

Allowing your duties to take over your life is never a healthy way to take on the challenge of care giving. Not only is it terrible for your family, job and friends to see you vanish into the task of care giving at the cost of everything else, it is also a bad idea for both you and your elderly parent.

This is a formula for caregiver burnout which can lead to medical problems, loss of sleep, eating disorders and possibly a nervous breakdown. The healthy approach to being a caregiver is to keep the demands of that part of your life at arm’s length so you can establish a balance between your life with your aging parent, and your work and family life.

What you can do to help prevent caregiver burnout:

Talk to your elderly parent, if possible. One way to begin laying the groundwork to keep a balance in your life is to have an honest talk about the issue with the elderly parent you are caring for. Sometimes you get drawn into wanting to give all to the task of care giving. But if you talk about it in a rational way when both of you are rested and thinking calmly, your parent will see that he or she does not want you to give up your life to exclusively be their caregiver. They need to understand you need to take care of your job responsibilities and your spouse and children as well.

Talk to your boss. Another person you should have a frank discussion about the demands you are going through as a caregiver is your boss. This is a time when many baby boomers are becoming “sandwich generation” people and have the additional demand of caring for an elderly parent.

Your employer may be able to work with you to give you some flexibility so that if you have to have time during the day to take your parent to the doctors or attend to some other need in your parents life, you can make up the time or attend to your work in other ways. Many employers will allow you to take work home.

Some large companies have extended leave programs where you can take a few months off to care for your parent during a time when you must give him or her all of your time. This is invaluable when you are moving them from their own home to the assisted living center or if your parent is terminally ill and you need to be constantly available in those last months of his or her life.

Talk to your family. Above all, solicit the support and love of your spouse and kids. If Mom has to be over at Grandmas every evening for a few hours, Dad and the kids may need to whip up some dinner or grab some fast food in order to cut Mom some slack as she is taking care of the needs of an aging parent.

Your family, your work associates and your friends should give you the time you need while you are caring for your parents. Then, when possible, take a few moments with your family and friends so the job of being a caregiver doesn’t overwhelm you. You need them as much or more than they need you during this time. Spending quality time with the important people in your life can help prevent burnout while you are caring for your aging parents.




6 thoughts on “Burnout and Aging Parents

  1. Amen to that! I know from experience how easy it is to get burned out, and it is a struggle to get back to normal, if one ever does. Thanks for sharing this important point.

  2. Thirteen is definitely a difficult time for major changes in the family dynamics. I remember when my oldest daughter turned thirteen – my mother said B. turned into a different person on her person, and it wasn’t pleasant for about six years. Now we have a wonderful relationship. I can’t imagine having to go through something as devastating as a parent with Alzheimer’s and a new teen at the same time. Thankfully, you had the support of your husband and it sounds like you are open for discussion. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story.

  3. This is such a difficult situation for the ‘sandwich generation’. I faced this situation just as my daughter turned 13….which couldn’t be worse timing from a parenting perspective. Fortunately, I had the support of her and my wonderful husband, and as you point out, family support is crucial. In many cases, talking to the aging parent is not possible when, as in my situation, the parent has Alzheimer’s. I also second the suggestion to discuss the situation with your employer: more and more people are facing this situation, and as a result more employers are empathetic than used to be the case.

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