Daughters are on the frontline of care for those with dementia. Stanford researchers indicate that 83 percent of caregiving is provided by unpaid family members and two-thirds of them are women. Stanford University School of Medicine1 researchers report that, “The responsibility of providing care to the vast number of patients with dementia expected over the next 20 years will disproportionately fall on working women.”
These statistics demonstrate that as the population ages women will increasingly become caregivers and will be forced to figure out how to balance work, family and caregiving responsibilities. It also means that women will have to learn how to avoid caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue.
We are concerned with these specific issues and based on our concerns, conducted a national study of 670 family caregivers to determine the toll that caregiving takes on individuals. Here is our findings:
- Dementia caregivers were seven times more likely to experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from caregiving than those who do not care for loved ones with dementia.
- They were three times more likely to feel extreme stress from their caregiving responsibilities.
It is important for daughters to learn strategies that will help them to fight becoming exhausted and burned out. You can survive the multiple demands of work, family, and caregiving if you incorporate these three strategies into your daily life:
1. Believe that your best is good enough. You are caring for a loved one and that is a powerful role. You are doing everything in your power to keep him or her healthy and in the process you are giving them comfort. Don’t judge yourself or fill your thoughts with anger, shame, anxiety, or depression. You are giving your loved one the greatest gift of daily care, compassion, and love. Accept what you can do now. Don’t worry about what you did not do yesterday and don’t concern yourself with what you may not be able to accomplish tomorrow. Be at peace with what you can do now.
When you can accept that the care you are providing is good, you may begin to feel satisfied in your role. Don’t worry about getting everything right. If you make a mistake, don’t tell yourself that you are worthless. Instead, accept that everyone makes mistakes. Think about how the mistake happened and take steps to avoid it from recurring in the future.
2. Talk to your friends. The power of friendship can encourage you to stay strong while caregiving for your loved one. Your family members may not live close by or you may not have a good relationship with them. However, friendships endure and good friends can serve as a sounding board, giving you reassurance and positive feedback. You can confide in your close friends and vent frustrations to reduce stress. When you share your hopes and dreams with friends, you can take your mind off the pressures of caregiving. Friends enhance our best qualities and that can help caregivers to feel good regardless of the burdens they may carry on a daily basis.
3. Simplify expectations. For example, you may not be able to sew your child’s costume for the school play. Instead, try to find a friend who might be willing to do it for you or buy one at a thrift shop. Or, you may not be able to bake homemade holiday cookies this year. Instead, purchase them at the grocery store and put them in a pretty box with a nice bow. As you simplify the expectations you have for yourself you may find that the pressure you feel is reduced as well.
There are other ways to simplify your life:
- Evaluate the commitments you have in your life. Which ones are important to you and which ones present pressure or complications?
- Evaluate how you use your time. Spend it only on things that are important to you such as the person in your care and your family.
- Simplify tasks at home. Buy healthy food that is easy to eat. It will increase your energy. Use the dishwasher as much as possible. When you cook, prepare large quantities of food that can be frozen for future meals. In other words, make things easy for yourself.
As a daughter who is on the front lines of dementia caregiving, you deserve to be kind to yourself. If you simplify your life and praise yourself for a job well done you may find it easier to navigate caregiving and the other demands on your life.