When a loved one faces a life-threatening illness and requires daily caregiving, families must weigh a number of factors to determine the best way to offer care. Although you may feel pressure to take over caregiving responsibilities yourself, there are many unexpected challenges that come along with caring for your loved one. Below, we highlight a few elements of family caregiving to give you a better understanding of what to expect.
There is no introductory period.
When hiring a full-time nurse or caregiver who is not a family member or trusted friend, the caregiver will need to learn many aspects of the patient’s care needs and preferences. As a result, your loved one may be initially uncomfortable around this new person. However, if you assume caregiving responsibilities, you have the advantage of familiarity with your family member’s specific wants, needs, routines, and personality. Family caregiving may allow your loved one to be more comfortable and experience lower stress and anxiety regarding their day-to-day experiences.
You won’t have to worry if your family member receives proper care.
As the primary caregiver, you will be with your loved one for the majority of their day, which means you are in control of the quality and quantity of care they receive. You will not need to worry if your family member’s needs are being met while you are away. Family caregiving may take away some of the anxiety and stress by allowing you to focus on your loved one instead of worrying if they are recieving quality care.
Grow closer with the family member you are caring for.
Caregiving is a selfless act of love. It is common for caregivers to grow very close with the loved one they are caring for, even if they already had a close relationship to begin with. Caring for your family member may be an opportunity to strengthen a relationship by spending quality time with them. This rewarding aspect of caregiving can motivate you to push through when caring for your loved one becomes difficult. Overall, the time, effort, and dedication put into caring for your family member will be an experience that will form a unique bond between you both.
Caregivers are more likely to experience depression.
Caregivers take on a lot of responsibility, which can sometimes be overwhelming. The accumulation of being overwhelmed and exhausted can lead to depression in caregivers. In fact, 53% of caregivers experience depression when caring for a family member. If you are taking on the responsibility of being a primary caregiver, it is important that you also have a support system of your own. Much like in an airplane, you have to make sure you are receiving oxygen before you can help your neighbor. Take time for yourself as a caregiver to focus on your mental health, self-care, and be sure to ask for help from your support system if needed. If you or someone you know is a caregiver in need of support, a site like the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) offers resources for family caregivers experiencing depression including several types of support groups, both in-person and online.
Caregiving can strain family relationships.
If you are a primary caregiver and have a spouse or sibling that cannot help to the same extent, resentments can build up if you feel you are overwhelmed or bearing a significant amount of responsibility. Again, this is where a support system is essential. Make sure lines of communication are open so that resentments do not strain family relationships and everyone is united for the same goal–providing high-quality care for your loved one. If you begin to feel as if family caregiving is putting a strain on your relationships, visit the FCA website to sign up for CareNav. You will fill out a short questionnaire to receive quality information, support, and resources tailored to your specific needs as a family caregiver.
Your finances can be affected.
If you are leaving a job to take on caregiving full time, take a detailed look at your finances to see what effect this new commitment will have on your revenue and expenses. Caregiving is a lot of responsibility, and losing income can add a lot of pressure to an already stressful situation.
The decision to become a full-time family caregiver can be challenging, but we hope these topics can help you decide the best choice for your family. If a member of your family is battling a life-threatening illness and needs a week away, fill out an application for a Respite on our website.