Medical advances and healthier lifestyles are major contributors to the increase in lifespan that many people now enjoy. This is combining with people generally having a baby later in life and creating a ‘sandwich’ generation. These are people who need to provide care for elderly parents whilst looking after their own children.
This can be an incredibly difficult and demanding task, and can be made even worse if the primary caregiver also needs to work themselves. With an increasing amount of older people, it is more and more likely that you will need to provide care for a relative at some point.
Most of us will become a caregiver
Anyone who provides physical and emotional support to someone else on an unpaid basis is a caregiver. The role can often start as a part time concern and then develop into a full time live-in role as the condition worsens. The type and amount of care are governed by the type of illness and the responsibility can be shared to make the role easier. It is common for the caregiver to be family members.
Caregiver burn out is the major concern
Women are generally more nurturing and more compassionate than men. This often means they become the caregiver and undertake what can be a thankless and very demanding role. Many of these women have to juggle caring for parents with children and work and can become exhausted themselves. Personal leisure time is almost certain to suffer and many women find they have to leave their jobs as the role becomes more demanding.
Being a caregiver is an emotional roller-coaster. The joy of being there for a loved one conflicts with the sadness of the affliction:
A normal emotion is sadness and eventually grief as your loved one experiences a declining health which will ultimately end in death. It can be very difficult knowing you are caring for them and that they will never recover from this illness.
There are many things to worry about when caring for a loved one. The usual concerns relate to being unable to care for them fully or if something unexpected were to happen to you while caring for them.
Anger and guilt tend to go hand in hand. Anger at the seeming unfairness of the illness and frustration at the inability to communicate or the dependency required can result in you lashing out. Guilt follows these reactions as you remember who they were and how little time they may have left. You can even feel guilty for a perceived neglect of your own family.
Tiredness is exceptionally common particularly when dealing with so many different issues. Unless you obtain help with the caring the tiredness will lead to eventually exhaustion.
Feelings of loneliness can be very common. Your entire time is spent juggling your responsibilities and you no longer have any free time of your own to see friends or enjoy hobbies. This can result in feeling isolated from everyone else which can lead to depression. It is important to take every opportunity available to bond with other carers and members of the family to help avoid this issue.
Looking after yourself
You remain a person in your own right and it is important to set a limit on what you can reasonably achieve. It is essential to not be too proud to seek help and to take care of yourself. Failing to do this can not only have long term effects on your health but can also mean that you are no longer able to care for your relative. Hiring someone to assist for short periods is an excellent way to keep your individuality and health intact. Learn more.
Family and professional help
It is essential to have regular communication with other members of the family. They all need to be able to play their part in caring for a parent and for everyone to be prepared in the event of an accident or should the worse happen. It also ensures a harmonious family relationship and that all members appreciate what you are doing and the sacrifices you are making.
There are many different service providers who can assist in the caring process ranging from home delivered meals or adult day care. Using these services is not a failure on your part but can be an essential part of providing the best possible care for all concerned.
(This guest post by Edward Francis of Forest Health Care (www.ForestHC.com) originally appeared on Caregiver Partnership blog.)
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.