Life as a Family Caregiver for Your Senior Loved One
In-home caregivers provide vital support for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves, and in doing so, they often sacrifice their own time and well-being. Though it can be difficult, caregivers find great satisfaction in knowing they’re making a difference in the lives of those they love.
Whether you’re just beginning your journey as a family caregiver or you’ve been caring for your loved ones for a while, you may wonder just what a typical day looks like for other caregivers. Let’s take a look – from the emotional impact to how to care for yourself while caring for others.
How Millions of Americans Find Themselves as Family Caregivers
Approximately 53 million adults in the United States provide unpaid care to an adult or a child with a disability, according to a report from the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP. Of those caregivers, a majority (41.8 million) look after loved ones 50 years of age or older.
Some caregivers find themselves in the role suddenly, after a health crisis or accident. Others may gradually assume more responsibility as their aging parent’s health or mental cognition declines over time. Regardless of how you became a caregiver, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. In fact, there’s a good chance you know several people in your own life who are also shouldering this responsibility.
The Day-to-Day of a Caregiver
While every caregiver’s experience is unique, there are some commonalities that many people in this role share.
No two days are alike as a caregiver. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities, but here’s a look at what a typical day might entail:
- Waking up early to help your loved one get out of bed and start their day
- Assisting with personal care tasks such as bathing, dressing, and using the restroom
- Preparing nutritious meals and ensuring your loved one is eating enough
- Providing medication reminders
- Helping with light housekeeping tasks
- Spending time together doing activities your loved one enjoys
- Coordinating care with other family members, friends, or professional caregivers
- Providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and other errands
- Documenting changes in your loved one’s condition
- Providing emotional support
As you can see (and maybe already know), caregivers have a lot on their plate! For many, the demands of caregiving can be 24/7.
The Benefits of Being a Caregiver
Being a caregiver is a rewarding experience. It gives you the opportunity to connect with your loved one in a deeper way and create lasting memories. In addition, caregiving provides you with the chance to learn new skills and make a difference in their life. While there may be challenges, if you’re patient, stay positive, and seek out support, you can make the experience a fulfilling one for both of you.
The Impact of Caregiving on You
The physical demands of caregiving can be taxing, especially if you’re providing hands-on personal care with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as helping with bathing, dressing, and using the restroom. You may also be lifting or moving your loved one frequently, which can lead to backaches and other injuries.
In addition to the physical demands, caregivers often face emotional challenges as well. It can be difficult to juggle the demands of caregiving with your own personal and professional responsibilities, and you may find yourself feeling isolated, overwhelmed, depressed, or even angry.
Many caregivers, both professional and family, go through compassion fatigue, which is similar to burnout. Compassion fatigue is characterized by a sense of being emotionally and physically drained, as well as feeling cynical or apathetic towards the person you’re caring for.
If you’re struggling, it’s important to find ways to cope with these emotions. Talk to your doctor, join a support group, or take advantage of respite care services when possible. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one, and it will make you a better caregiver in the long run.
Caring for Yourself as a Caregiver
Caring for yourself doesn’t make you selfish—it’s actually an important part of being a successful caregiver. When you’re physically and emotionally healthy, you’re better able to handle the challenges of caregiving. Here are some self-care tips to keep in mind:
- Get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet
- Make time for yourself every day, even if it’s just a few minutes
- Find a support group or connect with other caregivers
- Make sure to get enough sleep
- See your doctor regularly
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it
When everything is said and done, you may feel exhausted, but know you’ve made a tremendous difference in your loved one’s life. If you’re up for the challenge, then becoming a caregiver is an incredibly rewarding experience.
As people who began our caregiving journey as family caregivers, we know how both how beautiful and how challenging the role can be. That’s why we started RetireEASE. No one should have to bear that weight alone, so we offer resources, support, and community to anyone who needs it. If you’ve been thinking about bringing on additional help, we’d love to speak with you. Visit our website or give us a call today. We’re here to help, every step of the way.