6 Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout…

How many do you have?

If you are one of the 44 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. caring for a loved one, no one has to tell you about the added stress it can add to your life. But there are some things you can do about it. This week on Parents Are Hard To Raise, Diane’s special guest Clinical psychologist and caregiver stress expert, Dr. Lina Aldana is here to share some effective techniques for combatting Caregiver Burnout.

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Show Transcript

Parents Are Hard To Raise S02 E74 Show Transcripts

Lipstick Bodyguard: [00:00:00] The world’s becoming a dangerous place for us women. Lipstick Bodyguard looks just like an innocent little lipstick. But it will instantly drop any attacker to his knees, so you can get away unharmed. Lipstick Bodyguard… fear no evil. Get yours today. Only at lipstickbodyguard.com.

Announcer: [00:00:37] If you are one of the 44 million caregivers in the US who have provided unpaid care to a loved one in the last 12 months, no one has to tell you about the added stress it can add to your life. But there are some things you can do about it. This week on Parents Are Hard To Raise, Diane’s special guest, Dr. Lina Aldana is here to share some effective techniques for combating caregiver stress.

Diane: [00:01:16] Welcome to Parents Are Hard To Raise, helping families grow older together without losing their minds. I’m Elder Care expert Diane Berardi.

[00:01:24] For most of us being there when our loved one needs us is what we do. There is a deep seated core belief and something we all hope we’re able to do when the time comes. But the stresses and obligations of our lives combined with the shift in roles that take place when a child has to take care of a parent and the emotions that can come from that. Well it’s almost like we’re sending stress an open invitation. The thing is it is natural to feel angry frustrated exhausted alone or sad. As a caregiver stress is so very common it ranks at the top of the chart with the questions we hear on the show and in my private practice which is why I asked this week’s guest on the show to share some of our ideas with us. Diane is a licensed psychologist and director at Pirelli clinical and forensic psychologist.

[00:02:20] She earned her doctorate degree in clinical psychology from the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University. My old stomping ground. I’m a Douglass graduate. Which, I don’t think they call it Douglass college any more, but…

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:02:35] When I was applying to my bachelors it was called Douglass Collage. That’s how I know it.

Diane: [00:02:43] And I was a regular at Tumulty’s Pub and Stuff Yer Face [laughing].

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:02:52] Yum!

Diane: [00:02:52] And Dr. Lina’s areas of specialty include depression, anxiety, trauma and perceptual difficulties. Which makes her a perfect guest for this topic. Dr. Lina Aldana, Welcome to Parents Are Hard to Raise.

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:03:06] Thank you for having me. And I’m sorry I interjected there while you were introducing me. I was just so excited to hear that you were from Rutgers, too!

Diane: [00:03:12] No. That’s fine. We’re kind of loose here. No, that that’s wonderful.

[00:03:23] My first question for you… I think we’re taught to put others before ourselves, especially family. I was raised Italian and I remember my husband and I were dating, and he’s also Italian, but he’s a physician, so my had surgery and I said to him we have to go to the hospital. He said, but she’s just getting out of surgery. He is like, she’ll be… You know she’s not even awake. I’m like, No! We have to go. And so I dragged him there and 900 people sitting in the room, and they’re passing around cookies and coffee, and my poor ant is you know laying there. But that is what we do. We just and everybody just sits there and stares. So we feel like it’s selfish to think of our own needs. So, how do we get past that? You know I think that’s a struggle for children of aging parents. What do we do?

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:04:27] You know, I think you touch into something very important the cultural aspects of the way we grow up. Because for some clients, that I’ve worked with that’s not so much of an issue. And I think it’s because they were raised in a certain way, to be very independent, to do your own thing, but they don’t have a lot of connections with family members. Other people, such as people with your background, I am Latina, I’m Colombian. And I have a bunch of friends who are also ethnic. And they grow up with the belief that they are going to help out the  parents. Give back. Care for them. It’s a responsibility. It is a source of pride. So it’s hard to get away from that. Because that’s the mentality that you grow up with. But then you tend to give so much of yourself. When you care for others… and don’t forget we have our own families. Our own children. Our own job. And we kind of lose ourselves in caring for everyone. Spread ourselves so thin. And there is very little left for us.

[00:05:28] So the question that you asked me is, how do we deal with that? I think we need to acknowledge that we have our own needs. That it’s okay to take a break, to want a break to want space. To say, you know, can somebody else help me? Can somebody else do the shopping or the cooking or the taking the person out for a stroll. Or can somebody babysit while I do something else with my parent. So that you don’t feel so overwhelmed. And so spread out.

Diane: [00:06:04] Yeah. I Don’t know if some people feel like they don’t want to ask other people, or they have to do with themselves. You know, that, maybe somebody else won’t do it right. Or somebody maybe doesn’t want to help. Or I do it this way. Or I do it that way. So… I guess that’s one of the struggles that we have to overcome.

[00:06:28] How to give up a little of the control…

Diane: [00:06:33] Yeah.

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:06:33] Because there is no perfect caregiving… In terms of the parenting of children or caring for our elderly parents or whoever else we decide to care for. There really is no perfect way to do it. So whoever steps in is going to, if they have the person’s best interest in mind, they are going to do the best they can,. And they will accept feedback, if you are the person who primary cares for the loved one. But it also requires you to say, Okay. I am going to trust that this person is going to care for my mom or for my dad and I am going to now walk away and do something for myself or to care to take care of outside of home.

[00:07:18] But it involves giving up control and trusting the other person. So maybe being choosy, maybe not picking the random name off the street, but somebody else who you know [laughing]… maybe who is kind to pets.

[00:07:37] Just like you interview and you are so cautious when you are looking for caregivers for your children. You interview the nannies. You interview Babysitters. You go to the schools or the nursery schools and you take tours to find out what it’s going to be like. The same should happen and when you are going to let somebody else take care of your elderly parents.

[00:08:02] I mean, you’ll have to go through the gamut of interviews and what not, but have a sense that this person is going to care for them, is not going to harm them, is now going to be reckless or irresponsible. Those are the most important things. And then know that you can step away for one hour, maybe the first time. And go do your nails, or something. Then come back, and if the person is okay, and everybody’s happy, then try again. But it requires knowing or accepting that you need help. Then asking for help and finding somebody who can trust to give you that help. And maybe having a sense of what you want from that person. If it’s Person “A”, knowing that person “A” can do X Y and Z. And, so they are going to do that for you.

Diane: [00:08:52] Yeah. Now what if, someone taking care of their mom for a long time then saying, OK yes. You know what, I’m going to let you, you’re her best friend and I’m going to let you sit with her. And mom says, no! No, I want you. What do we do? How do we handle that? Because you need their break. Right?

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:09:21] Yeah. You do, and you’re getting it, so you have to take it. While you can[laughing]. So I think it … just, it depends on the parent. Some parents are not going to understand or want to understand the information that you’re giving them. It depends on the person. Some people are just so attached or connected to the primary caregiver that they don’t want anybody else. And they’re not going to want to hear explanations. Some other people may have limitations in memory and cognition and all sorts of things, so that they are not going to be able to take in the information they give them. So you need to know who you’re dealing with. But trying to explain to them in very basic terms like, you know I’m not running away. I am still here. I need to go somewhere for one hour. And so-and-so who can do this, maybe no a fun activity or something that they enjoy doing, this person’s going to do that with you, and then I will be back. And I can be reached at this number. It depends. Maybe that’s not a good idea if the parent is going to start calling on-and-on-and-on. [laughing].

[00:10:29] It is very similar to leaving your small child with the baby sitter for the first time. And some children will readily go.

[00:10:37] Some children readily go to daycare and don’t cry, and others really struggle with detaching. So it really depends on the individual and the sense of security. So if you can provide them with that sense that they are still loved. They are still cared for. You’re going to leave. You are going to disappear. You only need to do this for an x amount of time. And you’re going to come right back. And Mr. so-and-so or Mrs. so-and-so is just going to be here for that amount of time. And then when I come back, we’re going to watch your favorite show or something–something like that. Then it may help. It may not help in every situation, but it can be helpful.

[00:11:23] That’s definitely a great suggestion.

[00:11:23] Lina, I want to talk to you more about recognizing the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress. But if you’re a woman or there’s a woman in your life, I’m going to tell you about something that you absolutely need to know.

[00:11:33] I Want to tell you about my friend Katie. Katie is a nurse and she was attacked on her way home from work. She was totally taken by surprise. And although Katie is only 5 feet tall and 106 pounds she was easily able to drop her 6 foot 4, 250 pound attacker to his knees and get away unharmed.

Katie wasn’t just lucky that day. She was prepared.

In her pocketbook, a harmless looking lipstick, which really contained a powerful man stopping aerosol propellant.

It’s not like it was in our grandmother’s day. Today just going to and from work or to the mall can have tragic consequences. The FBI says a violent crime is committed every 15 seconds in the United States. And a forcible rape happens every five minutes. And chances are when something happens, no one will be around to help.

It looks just like a lipstick. So no one will suspect a thing. Which is important since experts say, getting the jump on your attacker is all about the element of surprise.

Inside this innocent looking lipstick is the same powerful stuff used by police and the military to disarm even the most powerful, armed aggressor. In fact, National Park rangers used the very same formula that’s inside this little lipstick to stop two-thousand pound vicious grizzly bears dead in their tracks. It’s like carrying a personal bodyguard with you in your purse or your pocket.

Darkness brings danger. Murderers and rapists use darkness to their advantage. We all know what it’s like to be walking at night and hear footsteps coming at us from behind. Who’s there? If it’s somebody bad, will you be protected? Your life may depend on it.

My friend Katie’s close call needs to be a wake up call for all of us. Myself included. Pick up a lipstick bodyguard and keep it with you always.

Announcer: [00:13:36] You’re listening to Parents Are Hard To Raise. Now, thanks to you, the number one elder care talk show on planet earth. Listen to this and other episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and on demand, using the iHeart Radio App.

[00:13:58] I want to welcome new listeners from Germany Ansbach, Stuttgart and Dresden. And in Florida Naples, Jacksonville and Sarasota. And in North Dakota Minot. [laughing] I hope I pronounced all these places properly. Please excuse me if I didn’t with my new jersey twang or accent. I know when I go visit my sister in Texas they’ll say to me, “you have such an accent.” And I look at them and I say, but you have such an accent. [laughing] [00:14:30] OK. So… Lina. How do we recognize signs and symptoms of caregiver stress?

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:14:43] The biggest ones, I would say are frustration. A lot of frustration, irritability, impatience. When we’re not feeling like that before. When you start to notice that you’re snapping at everyone. You are very short or impatient. Especially with the person you’re caring for.

[00:15:01] You’re feeling frustrated. You’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re feeling maybe taken advantage of. Unappreciated. Resentful. There’s a lot of negative feelings. A lot of sometimes sadness. Wanting to cry or maybe actually having crying spells. Wanting to run away. Just dumping the person. Just a lot of negativity. Also, sometimes there’s difficulty sleeping. A lot of worry. Eating issues. Either eating too much or too little. Gaining or losing weight. Just not taking care of yourself. And feeling sick. A lot of times when you start to feel like, “Oh I’m dragging. I can’t really wake up all the time. I need more coffee. I’m too tired. Everything hurts. I’m getting sick every other week. I’m catching every cold.” You are rundown and you are overwhelmed.

[00:15:49] So that feeling of “I’m carrying the world on my shoulders and no one is helping me, and I don’t know what to do, and I don’t want this anymore.” In a way, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but really it’s just feeling bad. Being in a bad place and… “This is not working out.” And not knowing what to do.

[00:16:12] That’s really like you’re kind of stuck and you really don’t know what to do.

Diane: [00:16:18] And what you described is real. It really is. And then you feel, you know, people feel guilty because they have those feelings. And you have the guilt, because you’re frustrated or you’re angry or you might snap. So those are signs that… You know and sometimes I guess we don’t see them in ourselves, maybe? We don’t even realize we might be snapping at people?

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:16:42] Yes. Until somebody comments on how moody we are. And you say… No! I’m in a great mood…as you’re yelling back at them. [laughing].

[00:16:51] You know, one of the things that I didn’t mention, maybe drinking too much. Or taking more meds than you normally would. Or Abusing meds. These are more extreme cases, but it does happen. When People just don’t know what to do. They may find themselves engaging in pretty bad behaviors to cope. Rather than using healthy coping skills.

[00:17:17] That is part of the reason why not feeling so great is because you are not sure what to do with these feelings and instead of seeking help or finding a way to feel better, they are stuck and then they are just kind of spinning their wheels and maybe engaging in some unhealthy habits.

Diane: [00:17:36] And some of those negative feelings about caregiving roles. They are normal. Aren’t they?

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:17:45] Yes Absolutely. Even people who want to be a caregiver for their parents, who value that and feel like it is a source of pride, and “now I’m giving back.” It is still difficult. Because it’s a role change. Right? And it’s a lot of responsibility. And a lot of the adult children have their own families. Some of them have young children. So it’s a huge responsibility and sometimes it becomes a a huge burden, that they were not prepared for.

[00:18:15] And even if you were prepared for it, and everything seems to be going fairly well, or you’re able to manage the stressors, there are going to be times when you’re like, “What did I get myself into?” Or “Why can’t I get more help here?”. It’s normal.

[00:18:29] We’re not expected to be happy all the time. Or to feel good. Feel like we’re the most competent person all the time.

[00:18:37] When we care for someone who needs us a lot. A lot of things are going to feel like we’re failing them and other people, because there’s just so much pressure to do, and to give… and we’re taxed.

[00:18:57] If you’re noticing this is happening all the time, every day. When was the last time you smiled? oh, I don’t know. When was the last time you did something fun for yourself? I can’t remember.

[00:19:06] When you’re there, then those are signs that now you’re moving somewhere else.

Diane: [00:19:13] Definitely. You know I hear it in people. And sometimes people will call me and say, “My mom needs help. She lives alone, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should move her in with me or move there or hire someone or do this or that. And I am thinking about maybe I should just give up… You know, stop working and just move in with her and take care of her.” Sometimes I say to people well you know let’s say for instance it’s a patient who’s starting with dementia and I’ll say to them, “if you can kind of learn caregiving entails before the crisis, you can for instance if somebody’s starting with dementia, maybe you can find a class or sometimes the Red Cross has classes, or you know the Alzheimer’s Association, or they have support groups or something… Or just to talk to experts. you.

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:20:17] Yes. [laughing] Know what you’re getting into.

Diane: [00:20:18] Because it seems natural in the beginning and it seems OK. You know it’s going along okay. And then all of a sudden you are… You have this commitment. And you’re like, oh my gosh! You’re trying to fit your life around the caregiving or your spouse maybe your family or you didn’t realize how it is going to just take over your life. So I kind of, I offer that suggestion to people thinking you know maybe that might help.

[00:20:56] Of course you never know what is going to happen.

[00:20:58] Absolutely. Even when you’re fully prepared. You never know. But at least have a sense of what you’re walking into. Maybe understanding the symptom presentation and what the prognosis is, may give you a sense. Because a lot of times there is that commitment that you start out with and then it turns out to be years before the person gets better or there’s years of decline. And it’s it’s difficult.

[00:21:25] People I think feel very badly for second guessing their choices. It’s only natural to do that when it’s an everyday experience. Especially if you live with the parent or the person you’re caring for. It is even more difficult. But at least you know what you’re up to. That stress.

Diane: [00:21:48] Yes. Exactly. Yes.

[00:21:50] I have said to people just… when you’re moving in with you, you have to realize everything is going to change. And not only for you, your mom, but your children maybe. Or your grandchildren. Or your spouse. So yeah, there is a lot that we can’t even imagine. Especially with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:22:21] Yeah. It’s always difficult. But having somebody who is having such… the memory impairment is very difficult. To see the progression of that, and to experience that. And to be the one giving so much care and then getting such little recognition, especially from the person who you are caring for. It’s very challenging. And then the behavioral issues that come with these conditions. It’s just exhausting for the caregiver.

Diane: [00:22:46] And when should someone seek professional help?

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:22:50] You know it’s funny you say that, because a lot of times I get the call from the adult child saying, “I need my mother to come see you.” Or “I need my father to come see you.” “They are doing this.” “They’re doing that. “And I can’t take it. And we’re fightng.” So they have identified them as the patient, right. They are the person who has the problem. Clearly they do have problems. “They need to come see you. They need an evaluation. I don’t know what they need but they need somebody. You have to Fix them.”

[00:23:17] And I’m like, Well… I don’t know if they’re going to come.” [laughing] Or do anything with me. And then I start to educate them about what stressors they’re having and maybe they will be helpful for them to have the space to come and talk to me, or someone like me.

[00:23:32] And recently, actually… It wasn’t my own case, it was somebody I supervise at the practice. I got a call from the woman wanting care for the mother. And then the mother was not going to come. But the adult child decided to engage in therapy for a while. Because it was helpful to her to have that space. But sometimes people don’t want to see that. They want the person that is giving me the headaches and frustrating me to get fixed. “I’m fine. It’s not me. It’s them.” And it may be true. It is a lot of them. It is their interactions with you and yours with them that is creating this mess that you’re feeling. But you need care. And sometimes we need care of our minds, of our spirit. And having that personal space where you can see someone. If it’s psychotherapy, like with someone like me, it can be such a sacred space, in that, there’s so much confidentiality. So you can really speak your feelings and your frustrations and feel like you’re protected you’re getting help and you’re heard. I mean, there is limits to confidentiality. But in general, most of the people they see are able to… I mean this is going to sound funny, but I always see this way. They disrobe in front of you. Slowly, but they do so. [laughing] Not quite, that way. [laughing].

[00:25:20] But they you know, they start giving you so much information. They start a little bit here, a little bit there. And then, as they trust you, you get a sense of the person. Because they are more vulnerable, over time. And when you are vulnerable, you’re showing so much of yourself.

Diane: [00:25:37] That’s right. You’re Right.

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:25:37] [laughing] Maybe that was a bad example.

Diane: [00:25:37] Oh no not at all.

[00:25:46] Dr. Lina Aldana, how can people reach you?

Dr. Lina Aldana: [00:25:48] The easiest way would be to go to the Web site. Which is GPirelli.com.

Diane: [00:25:58] Perfect. And I would love to have Dr. Aldana back again, because this was so informative. And I’m sure we can add more to another show.

[00:26:13] Thank you so much, Dr. Aldana, for being here.

[00:26:18] Thank you for having me. I appreciate your time.

[00:26:19] I really hope this episode helped you with something you may be going through this moment.

[00:26:24] Please keep emailing your questions and comments. And tell me as much as you can, because what you share can help someone else.

[00:26:31] You can reach me at Diane@ParentsAreHardToRaise.org Or just the green button on our home page.

[00:26:37] Subscribe to our show and iHeart Radio. IPhone users can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts. And Android users on Google Podcasts.

I would love it if you share this episode with your family co-workers and friends. Episode number 74.

[00:26:52] Our New York producer Joshua Green. Our broadcast engineer is Well Gambino. And from our London studios, the melodic voice of our announcer “Miss Dolly D.”

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Till then… May you forget everything you don’t want to remember and remember everything you don’t want to forget.       See you again, next week!

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