As aging loved ones require more serious care in their elder years, it's very common for a family member to step up and help. Along with the many rewarding experiences you gain by becoming a caregiver, it can be an extremely challenging task as well. You likely have your own family, career, and life to juggle, so it's best to know what to expect before you dive in head first.
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Knowledge is key and by knowing the biggest problems caregivers face you can be more prepared mentally and emotionally if anxious or negative feelings start creeping in.
Caregiving duties often take precedence over anything else. While this is great for your loved one, it's not ideal for your personal life. By not taking the time to meet friends for dinner, cozy up to your partner, or play with your children, you could be putting yourself at risk for depression. Make sure you are maintaining important social and family connections for strength and support.
The average family caregiver misses on average 9-10 days of work in their professional careers due to their caregiving responsibilities. Since these caregivers aren't receiving pay for those duties, it can put a strain on finances. The longer you care for a loved one the more strain your finances will feel. Don't put your finances on the back burner.
Between your own family, money, kids, partners, career, house, and more, you may feel extremely overwhelmed by the number of responsibilities you're in charge of. It's completely normal. Take a deep breath and let the moment pass, it won't last forever. If you're feeling overwhelmed quite often, take some much needed time for yourself by taking a cooking class, reading a book, or even taking a bubble bath.
The physical demands of being a caregiver can really take a toll on your body and overall health. Lifting and helping with other mobility demands can lead to a painful pulled muscle or recurring back problems. Loved ones caring for those with dementia report an incredibly high level of emotional stress which can affect your health and wellness negatively. Tune in with your health regularly and keep it in check. You won't be able to care for your loved one if your health is suffering as well.
You might feel like you have to refuse a night out or turn down a vacation because you feel guilty spending so much time away from your loved one. But guess what, it's okay! Hire someone to fill in and take the vacation or spinning class. You will come back relaxed and refreshed. Your hobbies/pleasures in life shouldn't take a back seat to caregiving.
If you already had plans before agreeing to be a caregiver, these plans may have to fall by the wayside. Life is unpredictable and it's totally okay to not be in control 100% of the time. Find comfort in the fact that you're helping your loved one's quality of life in so many wonderful ways, and that maybe your previous plans will have a way of working themselves out in the future.
Alzheimer's disease and many others may cause your loved one's sleep-wake cycle to be all out of whack. This can impact the caregiver's sleep cycle too. Being dragged in multiple directions every day can also cause strain and impact sleep. Ensure you're getting the recommended 8 hours every night to avoid serious health implications.
As a family caregiver, you must always remember that you're only one person and you're doing the best you can. If you're putting too much time into your caregiving duties and it's affecting your personal, emotional, physical, mental or financial health, it's time to seek support. Caregiving support groups can be very beneficial. Meeting others going through the same struggles, joys, and experiences can give you a new outlook on life. You will likely gain new knowledge and share some of your own too. Remember, staying healthy and enjoying your own life is just as important as taking care of your loved one.