By Christi M. Lero, MSW, LCSW, CSW-G, Therapist, Hospice & Palliative Care Social Worker
Imagine: You are in mid-life, maybe in your 40’s. Your kids are pretty independent. But they are still growing and need your support. Additionally, your parents are getting older and their needs are changing. You can see that they are more forgetful. They’re getting out less. And, you are worried about their health. Maybe, one of your parents has a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s and you can notice some changes in them. You are still working full time. And, you have been feeling the push and pull of being a parent and at the same time being a caregiver for your own parents. You think of yourself as a good daughter or a good son because you help your parents.
Being a caregiver is really starting to take a toll on your mental health.
You are tired, scattered, overwhelmed. You feel like you’re being stretched thin. It’s hard to find any time for your other relationships, or even yourself. You are a caregiver on your way to burning out. How do you keep this going? How do you make sure everyone’s needs are met, including your own?
You are not alone, in fact, you are part of the growing group known as “The Sandwich Generation.” Folks in the sandwich generation have children that have not quite flown the coop and have aging parents over 65 that are needing more and more help. Often times, those in the sandwich generation say that their children and parents rely on them for emotional support, daily living, and helping managing affairs. Not surprisingly, the older the parent, the more of your support they need. That stress builds up and can lead to neglect of your own needs and well-being. High levels of stress over a period of time can have damaging effects on your health and relationships. Stress can make balancing work, home, and hobbies very challenging. So how can you keep being a good daughter or son, and be good to yourself?
How to manage your responsibilities as a caregiver while taking care of your needs:
- Identify your top stressors: Find what is stressing you out the most. Being able to see clearly where time or energy needs to give is the place to start!
- Prioritize: Identify the important things and let the small stuff go.
- Use healthy coping skills: Start with the basics: food, water, comfort. Are you drinking enough water? Eating regular meals? Are you a comfortable temperature? Then, head out for a walk or run, have some quiet time, journal, or find another way to express your stress in a healthy way.
- Talk to your employer: Check out your benefits. Then, talk to the leadership at your job so they understand that your work-life balance scales have tipped for the time being.
- Build your team: Oftentimes when we talk about support, it goes unsaid that support comes from so many places and people. Think of your caregiving role as the coach of a team of supporters. Everyone has a different job and isn’t needed all the time, but having them ready and knowing when to call them in will alleviate that stress. Friends, faith-based groups, doctors, family. Who else is on your team?
- Ask for help: What makes you such a great daughter, son, or parent is that you are there when someone needs you. The other side of the coin is that others feel loved and helpful when you ask them for help, too. Whether it’s running an errand or asking for a respite, your team is there to support you just like you support them!
- Know when it’s time to talk to a counselor: If your stress is overwhelming, and you are finding it difficult to manage your thoughts or behaviors, it might be a good time to talk to a professional counselor. They can help support you through the challenges of life as a caregiver. Think of a counselor as an assistant coach.
Begin Counseling for Caregivers in Columbia, MO
Life changes will keep coming. So, start preparing for the ones you can see on the horizon. Counseling for caregivers gives you tools to help you cope with stress, prioritize your tasks and values, and build your team of support. Ultimately this will make you the best caregiver for your family. To begin counseling in Columbia, MO, follow these three steps:
- Contact our counseling office to speak to our care coordinator,
- Schedule a free in-person consultation with me,
- Work through the challenges of being a caregiver with the help of a professional counselor!
Other Services Offered at Aspire Counseling
At our Columbia, MO counseling clinic, we believe healing begins when you look past hurts, current obstacles and future worries directly in the eye and can confidently say, “I’ve got this.” Our supportive counselors provide a variety of mental health services designed to help our clients to achieve their emotional health goals. Our counseling services include counseling for caregivers, counseling for chronic illness, postpartum counseling, grief and loss therapy, counseling for teens, counseling for college students, counseling for adults, trauma and PTSD therapy, EMDR therapy, counseling for sexual assault and rape, anxiety therapy, counseling for depression, LGTBQ affirming counseling services, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Additionally, our blog features information on a variety of mental health topics written by our talented therapy team. To learn more about our therapy services, please contact our Mid-Missouri counseling office!
About the Author
Christi Lero is a hospice social worker, helps do research on ways to better support caregivers of cancer &/or hospice patients and provides individual therapy to clients at Aspire Counseling. She specializes in helping during moments of major life transitions. For instance, she enjoys helping people move through grief, find hope while providing care for a family member with a chronic illness and helping moms transition into being a parent. Christi provides a safe space and support while you explore your feelings & values as you find a new path forward.