When caring for aging parents, many adult children have to decide between becoming their loved ones’ primary caregiver or hiring outside support. According to the Committee on Family Caregiving for Older Adults, more than half of adults will receive a family caregiver’s help because of health problems or functional limitations by the time they reach 85 years old.
There are different types of caregivers, but the most common are informal and formal caregivers. Informal caregivers are unpaid individuals, often a spouse, family members, friends, or neighbors who provide support for their loved ones. Formal caregivers are paid care providers who provide support in an individual’s home or a care setting such as a residential facility or long-term care facility. For many primary caregivers, the role can fall into place naturally, starting with small errands and leading up to a full-time commitment.
Depending on the individual, caregivers can play several different roles for their loved ones. Many caregivers act as an advocate for their loved ones when it comes to their emotional and physical wellness. Primary caregivers often find themselves navigating the social service system, scheduling doctor appointments, or coordinating outside care. While these tasks depend on the individual, here are some of the most common tasks caregivers handle, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance:
Caregiving for a loved one requires a tremendous amount of empathy, compassion, and energy. Along with the physical requirements of caregiving, those providing support also face the emotional challenge of watching their loved one’s health decline throughout the aging process. It’s important for them to stay aware of the challenges that come with the rolem so they can seek support when needed.
If you’re new to the caregiving role, it’s common to feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of supporting your loved one. Over time, caregivers will learn how to naturally transition into the role. While caregiving can look different for each family and their loved ones, there are some tips new caregivers may find helpful.
Give yourself time to adjust. Transitioning into the role of caregiver may take some time for each individual. In addition to learning how to provide care, family caregivers are also adjusting to their loved one’s illness or loss of independence, which can be emotionally challenging.
Take advantage of downtime. Many caregivers struggle with taking care of their responsibilities such as making doctor appointments, grocery shopping for their own family, or even doing things they personally enjoy. Caregivers should try to carve out time for themselves, even if it means asking family members for help or relying on respite care for a break.
Practice time management. Experienced caregivers often recommend prioritizing tasks and accepting that not everything will be finished in a day. Labeling tasks using the categories “urgent,” “important,” and “can wait” will help you organize your day and complete tasks depending on their urgency.
Create a support network. Caregivers must have support outside of their family members. This may be a group of friends, a licensed therapist, or a caregiver support group. Caregivers need to have an outlet to cope and communicate with those who can provide support and insight.
Deciding to become a caregiver to a loved one is not something to be taken lightly. While undoubtedly rewarding, it can be a huge strain on your life and the lives of your family members. Here are a few questions to consider as you define your role as a caregiver:
If you answered “no” to 2 or more of these questions, it may be time to weigh alternative options to caregiving at home.
At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how difficult it can be to assume the role of caregiver for a family member. Our knowledgeable staff of professionals understands and is here for you and your loved ones throughout the journey. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.
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