The Challenges of Being a Family Caregiver (That No One Talks About)
Being a family caregiver is often something we want to do. Our parent(s) begin to decline in health, and we take it on as our responsibility to care for them. After all, they raised us, took care of us….it’s the least we could do to care for them as they age.
While taking care of an aging parent is a noble and worthy way to honor your parents, the act of caring for an aging loved one carries a number of challenges.
And these challenges are often not talked about!! Why? Because we feel bad for harboring feeling like this.
While you don’t need to hire a company to provide all of the care for an aging parent, you should certainly consider it. As many of our client families have expressed, it is vital to maintaining good health for yourself and your family (not only physically, but also mentally, socially, and spiritually).
Over the last several months, we’ve gathered feedback from client families. This feedback points to three particular challenges that accompany the process of caring for an aging family member.
Do you find yourself facing one or more of these?
1. Your relationships are suffering.
A friend of mine was responsible for providing care for her son, who was disabled after a tragic motorcycle accident. Prior to the accident, she had many friends and was always attending her bridge club, music events at the local concert venue, and cycling on Saturdays. But after she decided to assume the caregiving role for her son (a role she willingly accepted at the time) she hasn’t had time to do much, if any of these activities.
We often believe that we’re doing the best we can, providing care for a family member. But the truth is, we can get burned out just like someone who works more than 40 hours a week for a long period of time. We need active social engagement and a time to “turn off” – which is why effective care is often a combination of family and paid in-home care through a company like Sunlight Support.
2.You feel guilty.
I see this with my mother on an ongoing basis. Her father (my grandfather) is in a nursing home and is being very well taken care of. She knows this and the nurses do a great job of contacting her with absolutely anything that comes up. Nevertheless, if she doesn’t make the time to see him at the nursing home, and provide beyond what she is sometimes capable of, then she feels an overwhelming sense of guilt. As a result, she totally disregards her own physical and emotional well-being, which leads to a number of other challenges.
As an emotion, guilt is never satisfied. It takes from everything. It blurs the communication that you are receiving from the rest of your family that is asking to have you back- they’re demanding that you give yourself a break!
Guilt is a mental state, and if positive thoughts can’t enter your mind because you’re consumed by guilt, it will take over all of your extra time.
Guilt usually lies in the space between caregiver and care recipient. Nobody wants to be a burden to someone else. Caregivers owe it to themselves and their care recipient to work on taking a break.
Sometimes that means totally removing yourself from the caregiving role a couple of times a week – which is where Sunlight Support comes in (we’re always happy to help!).
3. You are no longer a daughter/son/niece/etc.
This is the one that’s the hardest to talk about because we don’t want to admit that we’ve lost that special connection with our parent. When we’re the one who is making meals, doing laundry, driving to appointments, getting the mail, mowing the yard, administering medications, and so on and so forth, we forget that we’re a son, daughter, niece, friend, or any other role.
When you hire an in-home care company to help, even if it’s only for a few hours a week, you can take back the role that you’ve cherished all of these years. Imagine watching a movie with your mom or dad while the hired in-home caregiver takes care of the dishes. Or the lawn company mows the yard.
With an aging parent, we never know how much time they have left. You don’t want to regret spending time as a family instead of a caregiver. We’re happy to help families reconnect outside of the caregiving role, and remember what it’s like to be a parent and a child, or vice versa.
What other challenges have you experienced?
Are there other challenges we haven’t mentioned here? These are simply of the few we’ve witnessed first hand. Let us know – we’d love to feature a part II blog post on this very topic.