Every November we celebrate National Family Caregivers month when families, loved ones and organizations recognize and honor family caregivers.
Being a caregiver can be a tough job, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A study by the AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving shows more than 43.5 million adults in the U.S. provide unpaid care to an adult or child in any given year. On average, a family caregiver will spend more than 24 hours each week providing care to a loved one, although many caregivers say they spend more than 40 hours each week caring for a loved one.
Family caregiving can be a very rewarding experience. However, all too often caregivers face challenges that leave them feeling overwhelmed, anxious or intimidated by their responsibilities. A few of the challenges caregivers face are;
Being afraid to ask for help. Many caregivers feel ashamed to ask for help from others. They feel they must take on all the responsibilities and asking for some assistance may be a sign of weakness. In turn, the caregiver starts to feel guilty they aren’t providing the best care they could be.
Managing their time. Caregivers often find they have less time for themselves and other family members. They often spend so much time caring for others they end up sacrificing the things they enjoy like hobbies or vacations. They may also struggle with balancing work schedules around caregiving.
Physical and emotional stress. More than 20 percent of caregivers say their health has gotten worse as a result of caregiving. Caring for chronic conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can cause the most emotional stress. The physical demands of caregiving can also take a toll, when the duties include lifting and helping with mobility.
Lack of privacy. It can be difficult to set boundaries to get away from constant interactions.
Finances. Since most family caregivers are unpaid, they can start to feel some financial strain, especially when caregiving takes them away from a paying job. The longer the family caregiver has been providing care, the more financial strain they feel.
Depression and isolation. A family caregiver can be at a high risk for depression. Oftentimes, caregiving duties take up so much of their time that they no longer maintain social connections outside of the home.
Self-Identity. Another challenge that faces many caregivers is the loss of identity. It can be hard to talk about what’s bothering you when a loved one is suffering from an illness or a challenge. If caregivers don’t take care of themselves, resentment can begin to take hold.
If you’re a caregiver, it’s important to seek a balance between caregiving and your personal life. Respite services are a great resource for caregivers since it gives caregivers a break from the constant care of a loved one.
You can find additional information on respite care resources here.