Caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people.
At FirstLight® we have found that family caregivers tend to be very compassionate people that only want to provide what is best for the loved one in their care. They appreciate the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes with taking care of someone, but the shift in parental roles and the emotions connected to an aging or ailing loved one can change the dynamics of any situation.
Caregiving is hard work. It can involve many stressors. Over the last 10 years working with families, our local caregivers have found these three common reasons why caregiving is so hard.
It can cause stress and burnout. As a family caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don’t realize that your own health and well-being are suffering. Watch for these signs of caregiver stress and burnout:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired all the time
- Sleeping too much (or not enough)
- Gaining or losing a substantial amount of weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Too much stress, especially over a long stretch of time, can harm your health. Check out these caregiver tips to help you reduce the stress that you may be feeling and to help improve the caring experience.
It can impact your relationships. When you become the family caregiver, the assistance your loved one needs may not be as demanding at first, but that may change over time. As the care needs change, so will the time commitment and additional help that is required of you. When this occurs, it can directly impact your relationship with your spouse or partner. Your needs and those of your family may fall by the wayside. While a healthy relationship can endure in the presence of stress, it’s important for you and your partner to make personal time a priority.
- Caregivers need time away from their caring responsibilities. Allow for regular respite care in order to spend quality time with your partner and yourself in meaningful ways.
- Keep the lines of communication open between you and your partner.
- Make it a point to give your spouse and your relationship your “best” every day.
It can be difficult to watch your loved one’s health deteriorate. Seeing someone who used to be healthy, strong and full of life now in poor health can be tough. For many family caregivers, the thought of losing a loved one can be more stressful than their day-to-day caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers are at substantial risk for anxiety, depression and chronic disease as they watch their loved one’s mental and physical abilities decline.
Research from The Caregiver Health Effects Study found that high levels of inflammation and depressive symptoms can last for years after caregiving responsibilities have ended. Caregiving can consume so many hours of each day for many years that when it comes to an end, there is sadness and feelings of vacancy in your life. There are things – both before and after caregiving ends – that the family caregiver can do for an easier transition to come out on the other side with a stronger sense of themselves. Here are some ideas that AARP recommends:
Start planning now: Your caregiving obligations will not go on indefinitely. Try to look ahead and plan for your post-caregiving life sooner rather than later.
Embrace how you have changed: Consider how your caregiving experience has changed you — perhaps it made you more compassionate and hopeful, more knowing and capable. See caregiving as a source of lessons that will help you the rest of your life.
Use your new skills: Through managing pillboxes, deciphering insurance statements and communicating with aides, physicians and difficult relatives, caregivers learn skills that are frequently overlooked, including organization, technical know-how and negotiation skills. Those abilities have value for effectively navigating the complexities of families and our complicated health care and social service systems.
Relish the values: The values instilled in you by caregiving will have increased your tolerance for frustration and self-sacrifice and your will to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Those are the same values at the heart of being an admirable grandparent, boss and citizen. When the going gets tough again in life — and it probably will — you will have the confidence to handle it because you have done so before.
Caregiving is often a full-time job that can impact your health and well-being, job performance and overall life balance. It can lead to stress, anger or resentment, and it sometimes can feel like the relationship you have with the family member in your care is now an obligation.
If you’re finding it difficult to care for someone by yourself, don’t let it get this far. Learn more about FirstLight Home Care and how we provide the best local in-home, senior, and respite care services to help you and the loved one in your care.
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.
AARP: Caregiving and Life Balance, July 2018 | www.aarp.org
MAYO CLINIC: Caregiver Depression, August 2019 | www.mayoclinic.org