Watching Out for the Effects of Caregiver Fatigue
Feeling overwhelmed? Unsettled? Exhausted? I get it. I’m tired, too. I’m not tired of being a caregiver, but I am tired as a caregiver.
I have written about how fatigue affects people with Parkinson’s disease. Today, I’m writing about the other side of it: caregiver fatigue.
I would never want my sister, Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s, to think that I am tired of caring for her. I love and treasure her. She became my guardian when our parents passed away before I was 18. But caregiver fatigue is real.
Keeping things in balance
Parkinson’s affects Bev’s short-term memory, decision-making abilities, and other cognitive functions, so I help her manage her bank account.
I’m a long-distance caregiver to my sister, providing most of my support over the phone. Although I’m in Arizona, I often feel the same degree of caregiver fatigue as Bev’s daughter, who lives with her in Ohio.
Bev and I talk on the phone every few days, and I update her on her account balance. Bev isn’t tech-savvy, so she doesn’t go online to check the account herself or pay bills. I pay her mortgage and some other bills out of her account online.
I also obtain her medical equipment (such as her rollator), schedule her hearing tests and doctors’ appointments, and manage her Medicare and other health insurance coverage.
I often have to repeat instructions, handle overdrafts in her bank account, make arrangements for conference calls with Medicare and doctors, and more — which sometimes means I don’t get to my own responsibilities. I often have trouble focusing and concentrating because I have a checklist of things that I need to do for Bev.
Emotional and physical effects
My feelings about doing all of this range from stress and anxiety to frustration and impatience. It turns out these feelings are not uncommon.
A 2003 study published in Psychology and Aging found significant differences in general well-being and rates of depression between caregivers and noncaregivers. Meanwhile, the Parkinson’s Foundation notes that 40-70% of caregivers are “significantly stressed,” and half of that group meets the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression.
To prevent caregiver fatigue, burnout, and depression, the foundation recommends “placing your own physical, medical, and emotional needs on equal par with the person with Parkinson’s.” That’s sometimes easier said than done, but as the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty vessel.”
Some practices that help me reduce caregiver fatigue include prayer, walking, socializing with friends, sharing my emotional challenges with close friends, and anticipating Bev’s needs to decrease her anxiety. I also try to do something that will increase my joy once a month.
Just doing life can be tiring some days. But providing almost daily care for someone with a chronic disease like Parkinson’s can be extremely fatiguing. Get some rest, refresh, and renew. We’ve got this!
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.