When we step into the role of caregiver, we soon realize how multifaceted and complex the role can be. With stroke recovery, this often occurs with little or no warning which itself creates a challenge. Despite the new challenges of becoming a caregiver for someone in your family, or a dear friend, caregiving can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
This article highlights some of these complexities and benefits to help those in a caregiver role to gain perspective.
The Role and Prevalence of the Modern Caregiver
Becoming a caregiver to an elderly family member means joining an already substantial and consistently growing segment of the population.
A study from the University of Michigan noted that more than 15 million older Americans received care for some activities associated with daily living, such as dressing, eating or housekeeping.
The amount of care you offer can depend on your time availability, and on the survivor’s disabilities, need, overall health, and also whether you can split caregiving duties with another person(s) or caregiving service.
The Potential Challenges
No matter the extent of care you might offer, it is important to be aware of the many unexpected hurdles that caregivers might face. Two of the most frequent are:
- Financial Stress: Providing care for another person or loved one can often mean time away from work or other associated life roles. It also may result in unplanned expenses. This can put a financial strain on you and your immediate family as you try to juggle your regular commitments with your new caregiver responsibilities.
- Emotional Burnout: The role of caregiver can also be an emotionally taxing one, as you are faced with new demands that you probably were never trained to provide. Not to mention, many caregivers want to do the best job possible, and set unrealistic goals for what they can provide. This can add frustration, disappointment and over time risk burnout when you cannot meet that high standard.
Build on the Benefits
While caregiving can be all consuming, there are several ways to prevent burnout and lighten your load as a caregiver. In order to do this, it is vital that you take advantage of the right resources and enter the role with the proper outlook.
Some of the best advice to keep in mind to maximize the benefits of your new caregiver role include:
- Savvy Saving: You can alleviate the strain of caregiving by saving up your funds for professional care. Consider working with a financial advisor to help you secure whatever funds might be possible. You should also review your loved one’s insurance coverage to assess the types of covered caregiving in order to determine the right course of care for your loved one.
- Assess Available Resources: Before fully diving into the role of caregiver, do your research to see if you can take advantage of some care resources.You might not be able to afford a full-time caregiver, but you can seek out the services of a respite care provider, for example, for a brief break from your duties. There are also volunteer organizations dedicated to caregiving.You also might want to seek out the services of a social worker who might be able to assist in the navigation of the required services.
- Speak Out About How You Are Feeling: You should feel open to talking about your own feelings as you navigate this new facet of your life.Whether it is a close friend or a trained therapist to whom you reach out, you can benefit from sharing your emotions and calling for support and guidance over the months or years to come. You also might want to consider if this is a long-term caregiving role or for a shorter time, perhaps transitional.
- Be Realistic: We all want to be the best caregivers to our loved ones that we can be, but it often takes a community or village and we can’t do it all.It’s essential to know your own abilities, limits, and obligations, and also to understand the nature of your charges condition. Different scenarios require very distinct care plans, so it will only make caregiving easier if you enter the role with a realistic prognosis in mind.
- Remember to Take Care of Yourself: Hopefully, your loved one will cherish the time you devote to their care. But they also may be frustrated or angry about their new situation. Having said that, it is important that you look after yourself.You should embrace your own emotions as you start to learn to cope with this new relationship.Take time to exercise, meditate, or whatever helps you clear your head and rejuvenate your spirit. By doing so, you can bring a more positive outlook to caregiving and probably improve the services you do provide.
Embarking on your role as a caregiver for a family member, or dear friend, can be a rewarding experience that brings you two into a closer relationship. There will be complexities along the way, but finding ways to tap into the benefits this caregiver role provides can support a new phase in your journey together. God Bless!
Photo Credit: Unsplash
Author Bio: Christian Worstell, living in Raleigh, NC is a freelance writer who covers health and lifestyle topics for a range of blogs and media outlets. When he’s not behind the desk, he can usually be found on a golf course or spending time with his family.