Family caregivers play such an important role in the lives of their love ones. In order to allow older adults to continue to live in their homes and participate in their communities, oftentimes they rely heavily on someone to assist with errands and their personal care. In most instances, that is a family member.
More than 65 million Americans care for their aging or disabled loved ones on a yearly basis.
Those who assume the role as caregiver may experience something called “caregiver burnout,” which the describes physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that can come with the constant care of someone else. These are 10 facts that every caregiver should keep in mind.
Some Days are Easier Than Others
Whether you are worn out from being on your feet all day or you are struggling with how to cope when a loved one’s health declines, it’s important to take a deep breath and remember that things will probably get easier.
You’ll Experience Unique Rewards
Caregiving is an unusual job because it involves forming deep personal relationships and building an enormous amount of trust. As a caregiver, you'll have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people you love, and that can be priceless.
Help is Available
If you do decide that your loved one needs more than you alone can provide, there are organizations that can help. Many will work one-on-one with families to help them find the most appropriate care for their parent or senior loved one. There are also a vast number of support groups and resources available for caregivers.
You Must First Care for Yourself
Family caregivers find it easy to forget about their own needs, which is why caregivers often experience high stress levels, depression and other health problems. Don't neglect exercise, healthy eating and sleep. And take time for activities you enjoy. You'll need to keep up your energy and stay well to care for others.
Knowledge is Power
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 44 percent of caregivers said that reading books and supportive websites about caregiving helps them not only manage their daily frustrations but also gave them a sense of community and feel less alone.
It’s OK to Take a Break
Just because you’ve committed to caring for a parent or senior loved one doesn’t mean you can’t take a break. There are services available, such as respite care or adult day care, that allow family caregivers to “recharge” with the knowledge that their loved one is safe and sound.
Caregiving Can be Costly
Caregivers may find themselves taking time off work, cutting back on hours, passing up promotions and paying for things like loved one's groceries and prescriptions. Nearly half of working caregivers report that caregiving expenses have depleted most of their savings. It’s important to calculate these costs when doing family budgeting.
Know Your Limits
Despite the diligence and strength of family caregivers, everyone has their limit. It’s important to recognize when our loved one has declined to a point that professional care is the best option. “At some point caregivers may encounter the situation where they are not qualified or lack the medical skills to properly care for their family member. That may be the point when home health care is considered,” Tomiyo says.
Staying Organized and Planning Make a Difference
Caregivers need to keep track of lots of information — emergency phone numbers, health records, prescriptions and more. It can feel overwhelming. Caregiving apps can help caregivers stay on top of appointments, medication times and other important information. Tomiyo says, “When making your plan, it’s important to think both short term and long term. You may not be able to anticipate every detail or scenario but being forward thinking early on allows you to respond more quickly and effectively when the occasions arise.”
You Don’t Have to Do it Alone
Trying to handle the responsibilities of caregiving by yourself is the quickest way to experience burnout and possibly other stress-related health problems. You don't have to go it alone. Form a larger network of family, friends and community resources that can help you.
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