There comes a time in life when many adults will assume the responsibilities of caring for an ailing or elderly loved one. Caring for an elder, individual suffering from illness, or someone with special needs has earned you the title of, “caregiver.” If you are assuming the caregiver role for the first time in your life, the responsibility may seem daunting. Although there are many challenges that arise when we become caretakers, it is important to remember that there are resources available. Caring Hands Matter, a provider of reliable home care in Fairfax, VA, northern Virginia and the D.C./Metro area and we believe that being better informed as a caregiver will help to alleviate stress and anxiety to a degree. Continue reading for useful information that any new caregiver should be aware of.
Emotional Reactions to Caregiving
Becoming a caregiver can affect an individual in ways they didn’t expect. Caregiving requires a huge emotional investment and caregivers may find that providing care to their loved one may arouse a variety of different emotional responses. Depending on the circumstances, it is not uncommon for a caregiver to experience fear, anger, guilt, being overwhelmed, feeling helpless or a combination of these. An important thing for new caregivers to do is to not be overly hard on themselves for feeling this way. It is natural to have some negative emotional responses, but it does NOT mean that you don’t care about your loved one. Below we elaborate upon some (not all) of the emotional reactions that new caregivers may experience:
- Anxiety: Caregivers will worry over a variety of things. Questioning whether you are able to manage your new caregiver responsibilities or; worrying that something may go wrong are perfectly normal.
- Anger and/or Resentment: It is not uncommon for a caregiver to feel anger or resentment towards the individual who they are caring for. Alternatively, a caregiver may become bitter or resentful of friends, or the world in general simply because they do not have the same caregiver responsibilities that they do.
- Guilt: Sometimes caregivers feel that they are not doing an adequate job in providing care and begin to feel guilty. In situations where long distance care is being provided, a caregiver may feel guilty for not being more available to their loved one on a regular basis.
- Grief: Oftentimes, caregivers experience loss. Loss comes in different forms, but is almost always accompanied by grief. A caregiver may be grieving over the loss of a different future they had previously envisioned. Or in cases where an individual is terminally ill, a caregiver will experience grief over their loved one’s circumstances and eventual passing.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Although nobody wishes to experience any of these emotions, new caregivers are likely to experience some sort of emotional reaction. A healthy way to manage these feelings is to communicate how you are feeling with those who you trust and confide in. It is unwise to attempt to quiet these emotions by bottling them up inside. This will result in you feeling more uncomfortable and overwhelmed as time goes one. Caregivers find support in different places, but some common support networks that are generally available to caregivers include:
- Trusted friends and family members.
- Your place of worship such as a church, synagogue, or mosque.
- Support groups specifically for caregivers.
- Mental health professionals such as a therapist, social worker, or counselor.
- A home care professional.
Remember That You Have Limitations
As a primary caretaker for an elderly or ill individual, you will want to do the best you can. But even though you are a caretaker, you are still human. This means that you most likely won’t be able to do everything you would like to, especially if you’re providing care from a distance. “At a distance” can mean a lot of different things. But as a general rule, if you have to travel an hour or several hours to reach your loved one, providing care will be all the more difficult.
Because of our natural limitations as human beings, you will need support – or you will burn out. If a caregiver becomes completely overwhelmed by their responsibilities is sometimes referred to as “caregiver burnout.” This should be avoided at all costs because it harms the caregiver and jeopardizes their ability to provide effective care. This means that caregivers will have to learn to ask for help. Friends and family members are often willing to assist in some fashion. But many families also enlist the help of a home care professional.
Asking Friends and Family For Help
Many caregivers shy away from asking their friends and family members for assistance. This can be due to a variety of reasons. Perhaps they do not want to impose, or maybe they fear that their request will be met with rejection. Caregivers must try to overcome these fears and ask for support when needed.. And more often than not, caregivers are met with support.
Enlisting Professional Support
Home care professionals are able to greatly reduce the stress and anxiety felt by primary caregivers. Depending on the needs of the caregiver and their loved one, a home care professional can provide anything from support and companionship care, to respite care that allows a primary caregiver to take a real break. For more information on the types of care offered by Caring Hands Matter, please review our services page.
Don’t Forget About Yourself!
We have already touched upon caregiver burnout and why it should be avoided. However, even if caregivers are not on the verge of experiencing a burnout, they should make an effort to care for themselves. With all of the time and energy caregivers spend on their loved one, they sometimes forget about themselves. Here are some tips of how caregivers can stay happier in their daily lives:
- Avoid isolation: Caregivers should make an effort to maintain healthy social interaction with those they are close with. Becoming isolated will cause negative internal emotions to become stronger.
- Keep doing things that make you happy:Just because you are a caregiver doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Doing things that make you happy, even if they are simple hobbies will increase your feeling of wellbeing.
- Don’t become imbalanced:Although caregiving requires a lot of time and effort, it is important to maintain some aspects of your normal life. This means that caregivers shouldn’t resign from work or activities that they enjoy.
Staying Physically Healthy
Caregiving imposes a physical burden as well as an emotional burden. It is essential for caregivers to keep themselves in the best physical condition they can. This will help them to feel better and allow them to be more useful to the individual who they are caring for. For more comprehensive information on how caregivers can stay well, read our blog article, Staying Healthy As A Caregiver.
Caring Hands Matter Is Ready To Support You!
Caring Hands Matter understands the struggles and anxieties of caregivers. Our organization has a reputation of excellence in providing a wide variety of home care services. If you are a caregiver who is considering the need for extra assistance, contact Caring Hands Matter by phone or send us a message online today. We provide a professional evaluation so that each caregiver can make the best decision for themselves and their loved one.