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The term caregiver can mean many things. It could mean that you are caring for a newborn baby, or that you are caring for an aging or ill loved one. Sometimes the role of caregiver is temporary, because children grow up and older adults may get sick for a short period of time. But what if you are assisting an aging family member who may have a condition that is not temporary, and the likelihood is very strong that they will continue to decline? What do you do?
Despite all of our intentions to do the best for our loved ones, we still need to care for ourselves. After all, how can you help someone if you are not well yourself? The statistics related to caregiver stress are astounding and indicate that there can be development of multiple health issues, increased lost time at work and even a decrease in the productivity of the person’s work. At times, caregivers have even left their job to care for a family member, which means a loss of income and often health insurance benefits.
In order to sort through some of the care giving issues, try to consider what can be delegated to another person, whether it’s a friend, relative or even a hired caregiver. Are there options to obtain some type of respite care for the aging person so that the caregiver can take a “break” themselves? Always look for a support group related to the condition that the loved one has – many times those that are involved have truly walked a mile in the same shoes and have very helpful information to share. If one support group does not appear to fit well, consider trying another one – they are all different.
Many caregivers feel they have made a promise to their loved ones that they will not put them in a nursing home or other care facility. However, if care giving becomes too difficult for you, you may need to make that difficult choice anyways. You may need to switch from being the primary caregiver back to being the daughter/son or spouse. This can take a tremendous amount of stress off your shoulders. At the end of the day, your best choice may turn out to be that you need to resume the role of being a loving family member.
What stress have you encountered as a caregiver? How did you balance the role between care giving and being a loving family member?
Author: Cheryl A. Acres RN, CCM