One of the most important, needed and beneficial jobs in the world is being a caregiver to your ailing spouse, relative, friend or neighbor. As caregivers, we are often needed in a multitude of capacities from handyman, appointment drivers, hair-holders, shoulders to cry on, or simply a quiet person there to help ease the pain in the darkest moments. Caregiving is an amazing thing and gift that you can give to someone else. This can, and is, one of the most exhausting and emotionally taxing ‘jobs’ that exist.
Many times, we are needed to help find new doctors, research specific medications or treatments, cook, clean, complete errands and really become experts on our person and their needs. The nature of the task of being a caregiver can cause great depression and withdrawing from life due to the heaviness and constant energy expulsion. There are many different options for caregivers to reach out to those like them and find some comfort in being reminded that they are not alone.
Common Caregiving Situations
If you are new to caregiving, you might find that you fit into one of these common situations below. It is very common to feel stress and worry when first beginning to take care of another human being.
- Patients may only feel comfortable with a spouse or partner taking care of them. Too often the patient feels that their ailments and issues are too personal or too disgusting to be dealt with by anyone, not in their immediate circle, or spouse.
- Caregivers with children struggle to take care of a parent too. Generational caregiving is a possibility while having children help out as well.
- Parents may have a hard time accepting help from their adult children. Role changing late in life can be a very touchy situation and one where many feelings can end up crushed. If you know you will be caring for your elderly parents in some capacity, consider pre-planning how certain situations would work. This can head off any disagreement or misunderstandings later.
- Caregivers find it hard to balance taking care of a loved one with job responsibilities. Many caregivers lose their jobs and normal way of life because of the unrealized demands from the needs of their new patient.
- Adult children with cancer may not want to rely on their parents for care. These patients feel burdensome because their parents have already raised them once, and now must do it all over again. As adult children, we have already gone through that parental separation and made our different, yet familial connected, lives. Reconnecting in such a way can make the adult child feel not so adult, and more just like a child, which can hinder the healing process mentally.
- Caregivers may have health problems themselves, making it physically and emotionally hard to take care of someone else. Many who help care for others put their own medical issues and needs on hold to ensure that their loved one is okay.
Those who jumped into caregiving without much choice have later stated that they should have delegated to others, hired services, or just not taken on so much for themselves. Reaching out and asking for help is a difficult task for many, and with caregiving can be even harder to do. Sometimes it is hard to have multiple captains at the wheel, and that in itself can feel intimidating and daunting. When agreeing to be a caregiver, honestly consider the things you can and cannot do. Think of the jobs and tasks you want to be in charge of for your person and the things that you are confident that others could do. Some simple things to consider allowing others to do are:
- Grandchildren or younger neighbor children could help with yard work and outdoor chores.
- Begin a meal plan and sign up sheet to cover the cooking and cleaning.
- Sign your loved one up for online grocery shopping which would allow you to simply pick up the pre-made order and deliver it back to your person. This saves hours of time!
- Consider a care ride service like Uber for non-emergent appointments or errands.
- Join the pharmacy mailing or delivery program.
- If your person is younger with children, consider beginning a carpool with other children and friends to help rotate the need for drivers to take them to school and other places.
- Consider making a private group on social media and only allow those in who are giving support of some kind to your person. This will make updates and the times you need extra help easier to find and handle.
On top of these things, be prepared and ready for people to say that they cannot help. More often than not, this might be what you hear. It is defeating and frustrating, but the bottom line is that some people are not meant to be a caregiver or have any sort of idea on how to do it. Everyone has things in their lives that make stress, and there are humans who do not do well with illness or this type of stress. Most often, others do not understand the time and effort put forth in taking care of another human being and tend to discount what you are doing. If you feel you need more help, continue making caregiving the topic of conversation and make sure that your family members and friends understand what you are going through and what you need for help.
Taking Care of the Caregiver
All caregivers need time, love and support, too. They need days off and time to recharge their batteries in whatever way they need. Taking time out to take care of your own needs helps to ward off resentment and burn out, which can be catastrophic in these situations. Having an outlet for your feelings and tricky issues will help you to avoid burnout. Taking care of yourself and giving yourself time for self-care is very important. Here are some ways to ensure that you are taking time for yourself, as well.
- Make time each day to relax. This means fifteen to thirty minutes every day to do something for yourself, that you hopefully enjoy doing. It could be a nap, exercising, a passion or hobby you love, watching a television show, or just deep breathing in the quiet of your favorite room freeing your mind.
- Maintaining your daily routine and regular activities is important. Quitting these extra activities when adding in caregiving is a recipe for disaster. Keep going to your gym. Keep the dates and parties you have set up with friends.
- Love your personal life. Do not disregard friends and other family who try to get you out of the house. Trust them, and spend some moments being carefree as an adult.
- Get some help! Do not hold back in asking for help, even if people have said no in the past.
Join a Support Group
Meeting with those who have taken on the task of caregiving like you have can be eye-opening and heart filling. In support groups, you can learn more about cancer and other illnesses, connect with people going through the same issues as you might be, and make new friends. This can also benefit the person you are caring for because this could also introduce them to new friends and acquaintances with the same issues, too.
Many support groups can be located through your hospital or doctor who is treating your condition. They are all types of support groups from telephone meetings, Skype meetings, local meetings, and more extravagant meetings with dinners, parties, and more. If you are new to support groups, consider attending a few different types to see which fit you best. And remember most of all, reaching out for help when caregiving is normal and healthy! Do it as often as you can! And in case no one has said this to you for a while, thank you for being a caregiver. The world needs more people like you.