Family caregiving duties cover a wide range of responsibilities that require endless amounts of energy, empathy, and patience. Most family caregivers will tell you that the time they spend caring for a loved one is one of the most fulfilling experiences they have had in their adult life, but it also comes with its own unique challenges.
At FirstLight Home Care, we know that each caregiving situation is unique. But over the last 10 years we have seen that many of the biggest challenges that caregivers face are very similar:
Emotional and physical stress: Studies have confirmed that family caregivers have higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges compared to non-caregivers.
A loss of self-identity: Caregivers feel like they have less control over their own lives. And that makes a lot of sense because the more time they spend caring for someone else, the less time they have for themselves, their friends and other loved ones. They often lose a sense of who they are outside of their caregiving role.
Lack of time to care for themselves. Self-care suffers because they lack the time and energy to do things like preparing proper, nutritious meals for themselves. They have limited time to exercise. And they’re often too mentally and physically exhausted to socialize or spend time doing the things they enjoy.
Financial strain. Helping a loved one can significantly impact a caregiver’s finances. Family caregivers tend to miss work, leave early or quit their jobs altogether. This is especially true among women, who compose more than 60 percent of all family caregivers, according to AARP research. Female caregivers are more likely than men to alter their work lives to take on unpaid caregiving responsibilities.
Feelings of isolation. A caregiver may be lonely caused by a withdrawal from previous habits and lifestyle. They often feel isolated and alone in their caregiving duties and, without support from others, they believe no one really understands their situation.
Sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep can be a big issue. Family caregivers can be sleep deprived for several reasons, including overall worry or concern for their loved one, staying up late to get their own tasks finished, or managing their loved one’s erratic sleep-wake cycle. Sleep deprivation can take a huge toll on a caregiver who is already experiencing the stress of burning the candle at both ends.
The need to do it all themselves. Many caregivers are ashamed or even afraid to ask for help from others. They want to assume the full caregiver burden and think that asking for assistance may be a sign of weakness. They want others to think they’ve got this and that everything is under control.
Being aware of common challenges that family caregivers face can help you be on the lookout for signs you are experiencing them as well. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, isolated, or exhausted, take action to get help. Ask family and friends to step in and lend a hand. If they’re not able to, we are. FirstLight Home Care provides companion care, personal care, respite care, and other localized in-home services to help you and your loved one get the care you both deserve.
In November, we celebrate National Home Care and Family Caregivers Month, observances that are near and dear to us. As always, but especially throughout the month of November, our FirstLight weekly blog will focus on being the CHAMPION of the family caregiver, providing the tools, tips, resources, and peace of mind that so many caregivers need. If you are or have been a family caregiver, we invite you to comment and share your rewarding experiences caring for a loved one, as well as the struggles you have faced throughout your caregiving journey.