How to help with Caregiver burnout – 15+ ideas to help out

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Today is an Ativan day.

It is an Ativan day because it just feels like its all too much right now. I realize everyone is in the same boat but there is an extra kind of pressure when you are a full-time caregiver to your ageing mother.

In case you didn’t recognize this, it’s called Caregiver burnout.

It is a 24/7 job and I could not do this without my sister’s help or more importantly my entire family. Each one of my children takes the time to do something with her. But alas, they are all back at school and work. They have their own lives to live.

Caregiving is even harder when you are in a lockdown and your support systems dwindle even more. There is no program for her to take a break from us and us from her on a consistent basis. She goes to a senior’s day program every couple of weeks and spends the day at my sister’s home on Thursdays. Otherwise, she had not left this house since before Christmas. That is 8 straight weeks without a break. This is not the first time we had a long stretch and I’m certain it won’t be the last.

Caregiver burnout - how to help support those that take care of your senior mom and dad

She cannot go outside because it’s too cold. She cannot visit because of lockdown, she cannot go shopping because of the pandemic. We are doing everything we can to keep her safe and happy.

Through the Alzheimer’s Society of London and Middlesex and McCormick Day program we’ve signed her up for an exercise class (that she now refuses to attend), a world virtual tour class, a painting class. All hold her attention for a little while. It does help but we still need to keep her occupied and entertained.

What she misses is her family. Her children, her grandchildren, her sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces. The ability to see them in person is vital to her mental health and well-being.

We have kept the landline so people can call her. She has communicated with What’s App and done a few Zoom Family reunions – but those can be confusing and overwhelming for her to process. We do call her sisters to keep in touch.

We try, I try… but I am tired. It’s called caregiver burnout. This is why it’s an Ativan day for me. To calm my nerves, for me to dig deep and find the love and patience that is needed to nurture a senior with the beginning of Alzheimer’s.

I know there are many things we cannot do during a lockdown and a pandemic but there are a few very simple things we can do. The first is to Call your mother. Call your father. Call your elderly aunt and your nutty uncle. They need to hear from you. If only to brighten up their day. Send a card, that’s even better. She treasurers those.

Taking care of your senior Happy Family Day

How you can help with caregiver burnout

Providing respite or added distractions for a senior or person who is being cared for is important to avoid caregiver burnout. Here are a few suggestions on how to help with some of the caregiving.

  • provide respite on a consistent basis (this is not a one-shot deal)
  • help with some of the doctor’s (or in my case) dentist appointments
  • treat your senior to get their nails done, a new hairdo, a massage
  • go for a walk in the park (take your time don’t rush them)
  • take them out for lunch or a coffee and doughnut at your local Tim’s
  • call them and take the time to chat (mark it in your calendar so you do this on a weekly basis)
  • caregivers want a long weekend off too (consider a multiple-day visit over an extended weekend)
  • gift them what makes them happy and occupies their time: puzzles, sudoku, paints, craft materials
  • get them magazine or newspaper subscriptions – seniors don’t always enjoy reading from a tablet
  • start a Netflix series and watch it with them
  • bring over a family photo album and review the pictures with them to re-live some of the memories
  • create craft projects with them and mail them off to family
  • send them flowers or care packages if you are far away
  • send a card (remember seniors are old-school, they use to only write letters and send cards)
  • bring them a bottle of wine or their favourite tea, these small gifts tell them you took the time to pick something up to make them happy
  • plan a getaway with them (when it’s safe to travel of course)

Additional Resources

Meet her where shes at Cabin Fever Reliever Margarita Ibbott
2020 Cabin Fever Reliever Fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Society of London (photo credit)

Alzheimer’s Society of London and Middlesex Consider donating here

McCormick’s Day Program

Kiwanis Senior’s Centre – City of London

Horton’s Senior Centre – Boys & Girls Club of London

Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging – Western University

Website | + posts

Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for and other online media outlets.

11 thoughts on “How to help with Caregiver burnout – 15+ ideas to help out”

  1. Margarita, thank you for sharing your (deeply moving) truth. There’s so much wisdom here for caring for our seniors and for caregivers, and this piece will help so many people.

  2. Having lived through the last eight years of caring for my mom with dementia, I have the utmost respect for all the people that provide care and support. When my mom was first diagnosed, I created what I called “Team Wilma” because I knew I couldn’t do it alone. While I was never the person providing 24/7 care, I was the primary person coordinating and managing my mom’s life and all the care that she received. For half of the years, we were able to keep her in her home with care. But as her dementia progressed, that was no longer possible, so we moved her into a memory care unit in an assisted living facility. It turned out to be a wonderful place and decision. She loved being around people her age, interacting with the other residents, having activities, feeling safe, and having privacy. I continue to be in awe of the amazing love, and attention her care partners gave. And truly, without Team Wilma, which included family, friends, and professionals, this would have been a much more challenging journey.

    I also will share that exhaustion comes with the territory, so finding ways to recharge is essential. For me, that included meditating, doing yoga, walking in nature, writing, resting, and spending time with family and friends.

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words. This is the journey we find ourselves in and I wish I could say it has been wholeheartedly supported but it has not. It took COVID to get one of my siblings into action to understand the impact of losing all of the respite services that I had set up. It has been a long year and we will have to make some tough choices in the near future. I will heed your advice on the self-care. I needed to hear that. Thanks you Linda.

  3. I do know how stressful this is for you. I’ve been through it. It’s never ending. There are times you question if you are doing enough, and there are times you want relief, a break.
    My grandmother used to say that one mother can take care of 10 children but 10 children can’t take care of one mother. It is so challenging and at times painful when these roles are reversed.
    I love how present you are, loving, and you’re a wonderful daughter.

    • Ronni, your kind words are very much appreciated. Your grandmother’s words could not be any truer. What I can say, is I am forever grateful for my children and how they have treated their grandmother with love, care and kindness. They are learning big lessons… big, big lessons.

  4. We aren’t all in the same boat, though. We are all weathering the same storm, but our boats range from yachts to dinghies. Some of us may be shipwrecked, and others caught in an eddy. (I wrote more about this in a blog post called “Are you feeling adrift too?”) I feel terrible for any caregiver who doesn’t have enough friends and family to support them even with a wonderful list of ideas like this!

    • Oh, that is a much better analogy … weathering the storm. We ate trying g our best. It is all we can do at the moment here in Ontario where we are fighting a third wave.

  5. Terrific ideas for this very common situation. Being a caregiver, especially for a loved one, is such a draining and relentless job. Even if you love the person, you still get tired. Most have very few breaks. I love that you are paying attention to this situation and making such helpful suggestions!

    • Thank you for your kind words. We often get so caught up in our lives and forget the people who nurtured us for years. Even with 4 other siblings, it is challenging at times.

  6. The hardest job in the world, Margarita. I appreciated all those concrete ideas on how to help, they’d be great to print off and have ready for when someone says, what can I do? When put on the spot, it can feel easier to say oh, we’re fine, because thinking what someone can do to help is one more thing for us to do. Your list takes care of that wonderfully

    • Lucy, thank you for your kind words. I had not considered putting it as a PDF to hand out but that is a great idea. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading the blog!

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