If you are the adult child of an aging parent, you might find yourself struggling to juggle the demands of a busy life. Family caregivers often work outside the home and have children at home to care for. The term “sandwich generation” was coined to describe people like you who are sandwiched between the needs of several generations of loved ones.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more and more adults are finding themselves in this situation. As our population continues to grow older, the number of family caregivers climbs. In fact, nearly 39.8 million adults in this country are caregivers for a loved one. That translates to almost 16% of the adult population.

An unfortunate reality is that caregivers are more likely to experience a health crisis of their own. Many times, it is because they fail to recognize and act on the warning signs of caregiver burnout.

Common Signs of Caregiver Overload

Because the warning signs of caregiver burnout may come on gradually, it’s easy to overlook an impending crisis. If you are a caregiver, take time to review and remember the most common signals that indicate you need to take a break:

  • Too much or too little sleep

  • Digestive problems that don’t subside

  • Change in disposition

  • Fatigue that doesn’t improve with a good night’s rest

  • Tearfulness and anger brought on quickly and easily

  • Overwhelming feelings of anxiety

  • Unintended weight gain or weight loss

  • Backaches and headaches

  • Development of unhealthy habits (smoking or drinking too much) to cope

  • Loss of interest in friends, social organizations, and favorite hobbies

If a few of these symptoms could be used to describe your current situation, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They can evaluate your physical and mental well-being and help you create a plan for getting back on a healthier track.

Preventing Caregiver Burnout

If you haven’t reached the point of caregiver burnout but know you need to make changes, these tips can help.

  • Practice meditation:

    Science shows that meditating can help you manage the stress and anxiety that are part of a caregiver’s everyday life. Even ten minutes of meditation at the start of a busy workday or during your lunch break can help you maintain better health. Apps like Calm and 10% Happier make it easier to meditate when you are always on the go.

  • Eat healthy:

    Eating a well-balanced diet usually takes more work than relying on convenience foods or fast-food. For busy caregivers, finding time to prepare healthy meals often feels impossible. Utilizing home-delivered meal services like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Freshly might help. Another option is to sign up for a local grocery store’s home delivery service. These services will save you time and ensure that fresh, healthy foods make it to your home on a regular basis.

  • Exercise:

    When you are pressed for time and already weary, making time for exercise might not be a priority. But the truth is exercise can actually improve your energy level and promote better sleep. The good news is you can break your goal of thirty minutes of daily exercise into ten- or fifteen-minute blocks. For example, start your day with ten minutes of yoga, take a ten-minute walk at lunch, and finish the day with ten minutes of resistance bands.

  • Say “no”:

    Setting priorities is important for all of us, but especially for caregivers. Give yourself permission to say “no” to activities you’ve always done but don’t have time for right now. Whether it’s leading the Girl Scout cookie drive at your child’s school or organizing the class reunion, know that it’s okay to say “no” and focus on your family instead.

  • Investigate assisted living:

    Another option to help you juggle your responsibilities is to explore assisted living communities near you. It might be taking advantage of a short-term respite program for a few weeks so you can take a break or go on vacation with your family. Down the road, it could turn into a permanent move for your senior loved one.

Call 800-304-8061 to talk with one of our local senior care advisors and learn more about respite care and assisted living today!