Being a family caregiver can be a stressful and emotional situation. Family caregivers regularly experience burnout, and they often need help above and beyond what other family members can offer.
Edward Granaghan explains what you need to know as a family caregiver, naming some of the resources that you can draw on if you need help caring for your family member.
The Initial Stages of Caregiving
Caregiving can creep up on you. You may begin by doing your loved one’s laundry or getting their groceries. You may drive them to medical appointments or help them manage their prescriptions. As the years go by, you may realize that you have made a commitment to care for this person.
Caregiving can be triggered by major health events like accidents, heart attacks, or strokes. Memory problems are another major reason that family caregivers step up to the plate. Often, family caregiving becomes all-encompassing, and the primary caregiver must quit their other obligations to be a full-time helper.
The Role of a Caregiver
Caregivers can be partners, spouses, adult children, siblings, aunts, uncles, in-laws, neighbors, and friends. No matter what your relationship is with the person you are caring for, you will need to identify yourself as a caregiver. There are many resources available in the community that can help a caregiver with their tasks.
Caregivers almost always have other tasks they need to complete. They may have full- or part-time jobs. They may have children at home, volunteer in the community, or have family commitments. When you add caregiving to that list, you can become frustrated and exhausted. You may need to call doctors during your workday, advocate for care receivers, and take care of your loved one’s daily needs while at the same time taking care of your family at home.
Caregivers are rarely trained to perform all the tasks they are asked to do. You may need to learn to transfer someone from a bed to a chair, or from a wheelchair to a car. You may find that you are having problems communicating with your loved one who has dementia because you have not been trained to do so.
Tasks that Caregivers Perform
Caregivers may perform only a few or most of these tasks. It is helpful to make a list for yourself and for family members who may not realize how much you do for your loved one.
You may be buying groceries, cleaning their house, cooking, doing laundry, and providing transportation. You may need to help your loved one get dressed, shower, and take their medicine. You may have to transfer people from bed to chair or from car to wheelchair. You will need to help them with physical therapy.
You will need to navigate the medical system on their behalf, scheduling appointments, taking them to doctor’s appointments where you sit in, and managing their medications. You will need to talk to doctors and care managers to decide what needs to be done.
You will need to handle your loved one’s finances and legal matters. You will be their companion. You will typically be unpaid and on-call 24/7.
How to Keep Sane
If this list seems overwhelming, especially if you are at the early stages of giving care to a loved one, that is because it is an overwhelming job. It is necessary to find ways to find a balance between caregiving and your regular life as much as possible. If you don’t care for yourself, you will be unable to give the extra effort needed to support your loved one.
As much as possible, take time for yourself. You will need to have a system for finding respite care for your loved one, whether from other family members, a community program, or a professional home health aide. The adage “put your own oxygen mask on first” applies here.
The Stress of Caregiving
You may be sincerely devoted to your loved one’s care, but you may still come to resent the amount of time that caring for them can take. You may feel angry or frustrated about their problems, and you may think about quitting as a caregiver. You may clash with your loved one, especially if they are beginning to exhibit signs of dementia.
The Rewards of Caregiving
While caregiving can be extremely stressful, it is also rewarding to spend so much time with a loved one. They will come to rely on you, and they will depend on your care. They may be grateful for your assistance and give you words of appreciation, or they may not be able to do so.
Balancing Your Needs
Don’t forget to take care of your own needs while you are caring for your loved one. If you run out of energy because you are pushing yourself too hard, both you and your loved one will suffer. Edward Granaghan recommends doing as much research on caregiving as possible before the occupation begins to take up very much of your time.