One constant thing we see daily in our office when family members are confronted with the task of caring for their loved ones is caregiver burnout. As the population ages and more adults are finding themselves having to juggle their lives while caring for an aging parent, the number of people acting as caregivers for their parents has skyrocketed. Often, these newly-appointed caregivers find themselves overwhelmed with their new role and they begin to neglect their own personal care needs, in order to make sure that the needs of their parent are met. This is not an option. Neglecting your own personal needs in order to meet the needs of the person you are caring for can result in burnout, illness and injury. If you or someone you love are a caregiver be sure to continue reading to find tips to avoid and minimize the effects of caregiver burnout by taking care of yourself so you can take care of your loved one.
1. Ask for help. If there are family members available to help shoulder the caregiving burden, suggest a family meeting and discuss how all involved can divide and conquer the caregiving tasks so the burden is not placed solely on one person. Also check your local volunteer organizations for potential sources of relief. Often these organizations will provide companions for your loved one while you attend to your personal needs. One excellent resource for these types of organizations is your county Area Agency on Aging Office.
2. Take time for yourself every day. Whether it is calling a friend, watching television, doing a crossword, or reading a novel, make sure that you take at least a few moments for yourself every day.
3. Maintain your healthy lifestyle. It can be tempting to pick the quickest meal option and skip exercise when your days are flying by. However, making sure that you are properly fueling your body with healthy and nutritious foods will provide you with the energy you need to manage the stress of caregiving. Exercise can help to lower stress and to improve physical wellbeing, which is important to provide you with the energy and stamina that you need when caring for your loved one. A simple walk around the neighborhood can be enough to get your blood pumping and can also help you clear your head.
4. Enjoy a hobby. Schedule time each week for yourself to do something that you find enjoyable, preferably something that takes you away from the burdens of caregiving for a few hours, such as reading a book, getting your hair or nails done, watching a movie or gardening. If possible attempt to schedule a short vacation so you can recharge for a few days. Coordinate with family members and local community organizations for alternative care for your loved one. Options such as adult daycare and respite care are available for a fee, which may seem like an unnecessary expense, however, these services provide the crucial relief that many caregivers seek out desperately. Making sure you make time for yourself is crucial, even if all you need is one afternoon a week.
5. Do not neglect your health. It can be easy to be so focused on making sure that your loved one takes their medicine and attends all scheduled doctor’s appointments that you neglect to schedule and attend your own. Setting alarms when you need to take a medication and keeping a calendar with both your personal appointments and the appointments for your loved one can be an effective way at staying on top of your health issues.
6. Sleep. Acting as a caregiver is exhausting with a proper night’s rest. Lack of sleep can result in loss of patience and can potentially can put you and your loved one at risk for injury. Create a soothing space in your bedroom that promotes restful sleep and make sure that you carve out adequate time to get a full night’s rest. 7. Consult with an Elder Law Attorney. There are many different programs available to those who are elderly that can help to reduce, or in some circumstances possibly even eliminate, the cost of caring for a loved one. In order to access these programs, individuals need to qualify financially prior to receiving benefits. An experienced elder law attorney can help your loved one qualify for benefits while at the same time preserving your loved one’s assets. Depending on the situation, you may be entitled to compensation for the care that you are providing.
Saying that there has been “undue influence” is often used as a reason to contest a will or estate plan, but what does it mean?
Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on an individual, causing that individual to act contrary to his or her wishes and to the benefit of the influencer or the influencer’s friends. The pressure can take the form of deception, harassment, threats, or isolation. Often the influencer separates the individual from their loved ones in order to coerce. The elderly and infirm are usually more susceptible to undue influence.
To prove a loved one was subject to undue influence in drafting an estate plan, you have to show that the loved one disposed of his or her property in a way that was unexpected under the circumstances, that he or she is susceptible to undue influence (because of illness, age, frailty, or a special relationship with the influencer), and that the person who exerted the influence had the opportunity to do so. Generally, the burden of proving undue influence is on the person asserting undue influence. However, if the alleged influencer had a fiduciary relationship with your loved one, the burden may be on the influencer to prove that there was no undue influence. People who have a fiduciary relationship can include a child, a spouse, or an agent under a power of attorney. For more information on contesting a will, go here.
When drawing up a will or estate plan, it is important to avoid even the appearance of undue influence. For example, if you are planning on leaving everything to your daughter who is also your primary caregiver, your other children may argue that your daughter took advantage of her position to influence you. To avoid the appearance of undue influence, do not involve any family members who are inheriting under your will in drafting your will. Family members should not be present when you discuss the will with your attorney or when you sign it. To be totally safe, family members shouldn’t even drive or accompany you to the attorney’s office. You can also get a formal assessment of your mental capabilities done by a medical professional before you draft estate planning documents. For more information on preventing a will contest, go here.