Being a caregiver is very rewarding and meaningful , but it can also be very challenging. Caregiving is a selfless gift you give to your loved one, but it is also a huge responsibility. Being a caregiver means taking time out of your life to provide the physical, emotional and social support for someone who needs your help, most often an aging parent or loved one. Even if it’s not your full-time obligation, providing these types of support means you are a caregiver (even if you didn’t know it).
What to Expect
Caregiving is a multifaceted activity that differs based on the individual’s needs, their other supports and their life situations. The person you’re providing care for might need a lot of help with some tasks and very little with others. In general, the domains that caregiving can include are:
- Helping with everyday activities. These may include providing transportation, shopping and errands, home maintenance and meal preparation.
- Safety. Keeping a loved one safe can mean helping them avoid financial exploitation and scams, making sure they avoid falls or knowing when to intervene when driving safety becomes a concern.
- Medical and health issues. Many older adults have chronic conditions that require medications, monitoring and other types of ongoing daily management. Caregivers might also help by making and accompanying their loved ones to doctor appointments. Because serious illnesses can cause an older adult to lose their ability to make their own health decisions, caregivers are often in the position of making these decisions and advocating for their needs in health care settings.
- Managing finances and legal issues. Even older adults who aren’t experiencing cognitive decline can need help planning ahead for different financial situations and completing the necessary legal paperwork for the next stage of their lives. Learn more about making medical decisions.
- Housing issues. Caregivers are often in the position of assessing whether or not a loved one’s current housing situation supports their needs now and in the future, and what other options might be financially viable and worth considering.
- Quality of life. Beyond attending to their basic needs, caregiving also involves helping your loved one thrive as they age. This can mean facilitating social interactions, motivating healthy behaviors and encouraging them to pursue passions and hobbies. At the same time, it is also important to balance the support you provide with a respect for their sense of autonomy and dignity. That balance might shift over time, so it is helpful to have ongoing conversations about what they want and to adapt your expectations as their needs change.
- Planning ahead. Caregivers can help plan for emergencies, what to do when their loved one’s health declines and how to handle end-of-life care. These are difficult conversations to have and things to consider, but can also reduce stress later on when a person’s situation changes. Learn about different long-term care options.
Taking Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Others
You need to take care of yourself in order to adequately take care of others. Being a caregiver can be very stressful because it can feel like their daily needs, health, wellness and life are in your hands. Some level of stress is inevitable, but it’s important to pay attention to how you are feeling. Notice if you are experiencing the feelings below, as these can be signs that you are not sufficiently attending to your own needs.
- A feeling of being alone with a huge responsibility
- Worry or doubt about the quality of care you're providing
- Guilt that you aren't doing enough
- Resentment toward the person you care for
- Anger at the lack of time you have for yourself and your family
- Frustration that this isn't what you had planned for yourself at this time in your life
- Fear about how much longer you can keep up this kind of care
- Confusion about where to turn for help
- A sense of loss because the person you care for has changed so much
- Stress over money
If caregiving responsibilities are feeling overly burdensome, emotionally or logistically, consider reaching out to our Behavioral Health team. Therapy can be a great treatment for managing the difficulties of being a caregiver. Learn more about Behavioral & Mental Health services at Banner Health.
Asking for Help With Helping
If you find yourself stretched too thin with caregiving responsibilities, it might be time to adjust how you are balancing everything. Ask for siblings or other family members to help with certain tasks to ease the burden on yourself. You can also look into meal delivery services, adult day programs and respite care so the senior you’re caring for has opportunities to socialize while you can focus on your other responsibilities and your own self-care. Embrace a flexible mindset and remember that it is completely understandable if you cannot do everything. Aging typically means that people need more help over time, so it’s common to need to adjust how much support you are able to provide. If you feel like you need professional assistance with your caregiving responsibilities, Banner Health offers home care resources to help you and your loved one.