How can I manage the stress of caregiving for someone with sundown syndrome?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 25, 2016
Cathy1967 asked...

I am 44 years old, and have taken care of both my parents for the last 17 years or so. My father passed away of COPD in 2008. S, now i only take care of my mother. I also have 5 older brothers and i am the baby of the bunch. My problem is i feel totally wanting to run from this situation and not come back for about a week. I don't go anywhere except for my one college class a week. I am tying to get my degree in surg tech, i only like 2 semester. But in the mean time my mother has sundown syndrome. I have never, ever been hateful to my parents but i find my self being short with my mother, having less and less patience with her. Seems like when i do get to sit down for a min. to get on the computer or just take a breath she is yelling for me the min i sit down. I realize 80% she cannot help. I am tired and my 26 year old son is worried about me and my health. I am also worried, i am making me an appointment with mental health this week, hoping they can tell me ways to handle her situation. Mainly, I am burnt out and look for any little thing to get out of this house for 1 min. I love and respect my mother but i am tired and i feel my health paying the price. Please help Cathy

Expert Answers

Deborah Cooke is a gerontologist specializing in dementia, delirium, caregiving, and senior fitness. She is a certified dementia care provider and specialist through the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Cooke currently manages several multidisciplinary programs to enhance well-being for hospitalized seniors and other vulnerable patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She also serves on the board of NewYork-Presbyterian's Patient and Family Education Advisory Committee. She has 18 years of experience working with the aging and caregiver communities.

Cathy, all of your feelings are completely valid and normal. I'm so happy to hear you are seeking professional health. Talking to someone is very important, be it a friend or a professional.

My best advice is to take time to breathe! Do something for yourself. If you can't do it at home, do it somewhere else. Force it and schedule it. Make it a routine. If you have to work, that's fine; but, schedule some "down" too. Take a walk, hike, garden, go to the movies. Do something enjoyable.

You may need to get help at home. Talk to your siblings and elicit their assistance. Be honest with them and yourself about your feelings, difficulties, and burn out. You need them. I know every family has their own dynamics, so this sometimes can be difficult. If communicating is an issue, see if your mental health professional can help. They are trained for this.

If family support isn't an option, look to friends of your community. Attend a support group. Paid support may even be necessary.

In short, take breaks, breathe deeply, go outside, do something you enjoy! You won't be any good to your mother if you are completely spent and burned out.