If you are a caregiver guardian in a home with a parent or other disabled loved one, you may be wondering how to cope, but you are not alone. According to The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, “Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months”. Because of the pandemic shut down, you may also be struggling to keep up with kids’ schoolwork and activities or even working at home while balancing all of these responsibilities.
Trying to find a balance between caring for others and caring for yourself can be difficult when you are a caregiver. The analogy of the airplane oxygen mask comes to mind. You must put on your own mask before you can strap someone else’s mask on. To strap their mask on first could mean that neither of you get the oxygen you so desperately need.
Guardian of a Disabled Adult
If you are an official guardian for a disabled adult, there are certain things you must take care of, but it is possible to let others carry some of the load. With so many responsibilities that the average adult faces, an important skill is learning how to delegate some of your daily tasks. As a guardian, you may be responsible for the person’s financial health or their safety and general welfare. In most guardianships, you are responsible for both. You are required by law to act in the person’s best interest regarding their assets and their health, both emotional and physical. It is of utmost importance that you give some responsibilities to others so that you don’t burnout.
Carrying the weight of knowing that you are completely responsible for another adult can drain you emotionally and physically if you are doing the daily caretaking responsibilities for the person. It may be time to take a good look at what your day consists of and recognize if you are doing an ureasonable amount of work each day. Having unreasonable expectations about what you are capable of sets you up for failure. No one person can bear the weight of being the sole caregiver AND take care of themselves and others. No one person can do this AND hold down a job at home also. If you are attempting this, take a step back and really reconsider whether you are burning out.
Realistically look at your daily routine and begin to see which items may be delegated to someone else. Consider who else may be available to help. There are community programs and you may have friends or family members who would enjoy a chance to be involved a bit each week. It is ok to ask for help. None of us can do life on our own 100% of the time.
Going beyond burnout can actually result in a type of PTSD. According to Compassion Fatigue, “Compassion fatigue and its kin, such as secondary traumatic stress, PTSD, empathic distress and vicarious trauma, create issues in our lives. Providing authentic, sustainable self-care daily can help manage and lessen the disruptive issues associated with compassion fatigue.” Talk with others you trust and truly assess whether you are doing more than your body and mind is capable of.
Find a Better Way
- Check Your Health Insurance: Many healthcare plans are including counseling under their coverage during the time of the pandemic. Talking to someone who listens can help you process how you are feeling and whether you need to delegate responsibilities.
- NC Senior Services “provides in-home care services and has a list of facilities that provide full-time care and other special services and assistance to help older adults continue to live full and happy lives. Includes adult day care, senior centers, housing assistance, transportation, adult protection”
- According to NCDHHS, “Congregate Nutrition provides a meal, typically lunch, which offers one third of the recommended daily dietary allowance and is provided in a group setting. Home Delivered Meals provides a meal, typically lunch, to home bound older adults which offers one third of the recommended daily dietary allowance.”
- NCDHHS also has Adult Day Services that “provides an organized program in a community group setting to promote social, physical and emotional well being. These programs offer a variety of activities designed to meet the needs and interests of each older adult who receives care.”
- Also consider looking on Care.com or other similar resources if you can afford to pay someone to do other duties that will help you keep your sanity. A housekeeper, a tutor for the kids, a live in nanny, an adult caregiver, another adult to simply sit with your elderly parent.
- Let your family and friends know what would be helpful. There are people in your community and organizations who care and would love to help you. Talk about what you are going through and let others know. Often, help comes in the form of someone when we least expect it.
Consider Yourself Also
Consider the possibilities to make your life manageable. Only you can do this for yourself. Give yourself a reasonable amount of downtime. If you face caregiver burnout, who will care for your family? If you end up with a trauma induced stress disorder because you are denying your stressful feelings, how will you continue to function? Caring for others can be exhausting, but done with boundaries in place to protect your mental and emotional well-being, it can also be very rewarding. Give yourself permission to care for yourself as much as you do others and you will find that everyone is happier and healthier.
Sometimes consulting with a knowledgeable attorney in matters of guardianship can help you focus on what is important to you and your family. An experienced attorney understands the law involved in guardianship and how best to manage assets and find help for your role as guardian. They also know and understand the latest state and federal legislation that can help you find additional resources.
Check Out Our Webinar on Caregiver Burnout and the Role of Guardian
Holly Hight and Adam Hopler discuss some of the strategies and issues that you face as a caregiver from a practical standpoint and from the legal perspective in this informative webinar. Check it out for more information on this timely topic.