Everyone knows that caregiving isn’t easy, but unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to comprehend the incredible sacrifice it takes to carry out the role. Family caregivers spend a significant amount of their own time, money, and energy when caring for an older relative. This can take its toll and can result in the caregiver feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and anxious about their role.
It’s important that caregivers recognise and acknowledge the challenges of their role so that they can take steps to resolve them or, if they cannot be resolved, to cope with them both physically and emotionally. If caregivers can do this, they are less likely to neglect their own needs, which is vital for carrying out the role effectively. After all, a caregiver who looks after themself is in the best position to look after others.
While every caregiving experience is unique, the following are some of the challenges that are most common for caregivers.
1. Managing their Time
The caregiving role can be very time consuming, and as such, caregivers often find that they have less time for themselves. Caregivers will often spend so much time on caregiving tasks that they have to sacrifice time they would normally spend on other things, such as hobbies, holidays, socialising and time with family. If a caregiver is also working, they may find it difficult to balance their employment and caregiving schedules. There are only so many hours in the day, and caregivers have to remember that they can’t do everything. If it’s all becoming too much, it’s important for caregivers to seek help with their caring duties from professional carers or from other family members.
2. Feeling Lonely
As mentioned above, being a caregiver takes a lot of time out of a person’s day. When a caregiver spends so much of their time taking care of their loved one, they may neglect other friends and family members and start to feel isolated. This is one of the things that, when experienced for long periods of time, can result in caregiver burnout. As such, it’s important that caregivers try to take some time out of their busy schedule to catch up with a friend or spend quality time with their spouse. This will improve the health of the caregiver, which, in turn, improves their ability to provide care.
3. Financial Strain
Family caregivers are generally unpaid. This can cause a certain level of strain, particularly if their caregiving role is at the expense of a paying job. Typically, the longer the caregiver has been providing care, the more financial strain they may feel. In addition, there are many expenses that fall to the responsibility of the caregiver – for example, they may pay for groceries when they go to the shops for the person in their care. This can result in higher financial strain and higher levels of stress for the caregiver.
4. Lack of Support
Often caregivers feel like they are left to carry out the caregiving role on their own. In some cases, other family members may not be willing to help, or they may not realise that the primary carer needs some assistance. A strong support system is important for preventing the primary carer from burning out and also for providing the best care for the older adult. If other family members cannot assist, professional carers can be hired to provide support.
5. Lack of Knowledge
Family caregivers typically have little or no medical knowledge. It can also be difficult for them to access appropriate resources and channels to find this information. This lack of knowledge can make caregiving seem very daunting, particularly if the older adult’s situation is complex and decisions made will impact their health and wellbeing. Many caregivers report that they feel more stressed when they have to make important medical decisions because they do not know enough about the procedures and consequences.
If you’re currently caring for an older relative, or if you think you will be in the near future, you can find out information on the support available for carers from the Better Health Channel: Looking after yourself as a carer. If you want to find out more about the content of this blog, and how our courses or workshops may be able to help you as a carer, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can also find lots of useful articles and advice on our Facebook Page.