Through the seasons of life, I’ve joined the ranks of being a temporary family caregiver. I’m sure that many of you have been doing this for many seasons, or you know of families who have great examples of assistance with extended family. I count it as a privilege and cherish the extra time we have together, but I also recognize the additional challenges it brings. In effort to balance some of the challenges myself, I share with you the following information.
Whether it’s by the normal process of aging or hastened by a medical emergency, being a family caregiver can take a variety of roles. Tasks such as buying groceries, cooking, cleaning, and laundry, giving of time to help with medical appointments, ordering meds, or personal care are all defined as offering care. The National Alliance for Caregiving (2009) reports that 73% of workers report that they are currently providing or have recently provided care and 62% report have to rearrange work schedules, decrease their hours or had to take leave.
There are many benefits to being a caregiver, it’s an opportunity to create positive memories with our loved ones and appreciate many of these contributions (shared from the National Center on Caregiving), caregivers report that it offered them the opportunity to:
• Improve my relationship / chance to heal the past
• Learn to put someone else first / made me a better person
• Patience / learning to listen
• Gratefulness / my chance to pay my parents back for their caring
• Increased my compassion and tolerance
• Get to experience love and joy through caring
• No regrets / peace of mind / closure /completion / time to say goodbye
• Spiritual fulfillment
• Role model for the next generation of how to care for family / reap what sow
• My parent is my best friend / still alive for me to appreciate / way to honor him or her
• Changing priorities - Learning what’s important
Being careful to understand that caregiving can also bring challenges, they encourage the following practices:
• Maintain a life outside of caregiving, allowing time for yourself and your family is essential
• Caregivers need to know their needs/feelings count and the opportunity to say when “this is too much or I can’t do it all”.
• They must take care of their own health; get adequate sleep, exercise and healthy meals.
• They have a right to ask questions and be listened to from the medical systems and learn community resources, including sources of support.
• Help them say “YES” to offers of help.
This is only the fraction of the picture, as there are many additional resources available. Please check out the Family Caregiver Alliance for many additional topics, support and information (https://www.caregiver.org/fact-sheets)