Caregiving is a role that can creep up on you, especially when the progression of your loved one’s condition is gradual. You may start by accompanying a parent to the doctor’s office or helping with the laundry, but over time, your caregiver duties expand into more comprehensive assistance. Becoming a family caregiver is a huge commitment, and it can weigh on you mentally, emotionally, and physically.
What Role Does A Caregiver Play?
You may have been prepared to help your aging or disabled loved one further down the road, but a serious health crisis, accident, or sudden realization about their cognitive state may have you stepping in long before you were ready. There is a new normal that may take some time getting used to, and you may need to explore what your new role will mean. Before you can provide the assistance and support that accompanies this role, you have to merge your identities and define a path forward.
Anyone can take on the caregiver position, whether a partner, spouse, sibling, aunt, parent, adult child, grandchildren, neighbor, friend, etc. In spite of the relationship you may have with the patient, you need to separate being a caregiver. If you don’t make this distinction, you won’t be in a position to make certain decisions, look for the right resources, and emotionally adapt to the changes you see happening. However, you also have to balance your new role with your employment situation, social commitments, domestic responsibilities, or other identities.
The Strain of Caregiving
All your roles will tug at you for time and attention, and it is common for those filling caregiving roles to experience physical and emotional strain. Assisting with bathing, running errands, or additional housework might cause some physical soreness, but watching your loved one’s condition will wear you mentally and emotionally. It is important that your first priority is to take care of yourself. You can do that in several ways, but here are a few of them.
- Be patient and realistic. This is a new world for you, and you aren’t expected to be perfect or knowledgeable from the get-go. It takes time to learn the aspects of caregiving and how to function in your new role. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Expect growth challenges but tackle them head-on. Your family member or friend may also be hesitant to accept your role, but don’t take it personally. Be patient and empathetic as they adjust to this new experience of dependence.
- Become an expert. The condition your loved one is experiencing may be a mystery to you. Spend time getting to know the signs and symptoms, as well as treatments and support needed to ensure comfort and quality of life. While you are addressing their needs, be aware of your own. Identify the situations or triggers that cause you to feel frustrated or hopeless. Working through these can help you learn how to work with your loved one.
- Be open to help. It isn’t a sign of weakness or failure in your role to accept help. This shows that you are determined to provide the best care possible, even if it means looking for caregiver support outside of the family. There are medical professionals who can explain the progression of the illness better than an internet blog, and trained staff can help you improve your ways of communicating or assisting your loved one. Your view and judgment may be clouded by the personal relationship you share with the patient, but someone on the outside can look more objectively at the situation.
You also need to seek help for your struggles as a caregiver. It isn’t easy, and too often, caregivers feel isolated in their challenging lifestyle. Develop a support system where you can discuss your emotional concerns or experiences. If possible, find a support group for caregivers in your area. These individuals will have direct knowledge of what you are facing and dealing with, and they can provide advice or insight that will help you cope.
Finding Support for Caregiving
Though you may do everything in your power to create the best quality of life for your loved one, there may come a point in the progression of the illness where you might consider taking your loved ones to assisted living facilities. With degenerative cognitive conditions like dementia, individuals require support and supervision that can’t always be easy to achieve in a home environment.
As a caregiver, having the peace of mind that your loved one is receiving professional care can provide you both with quality of life. If you have decided that you need to move your loved one into professional care, Caring Places Management is ready to help make the transition smooth and efficient for all involved.