The challenges of caregiving are finally being recognized, but many home healthcare providers still feel stressed out and misunderstood. Here are some common challenges that caregivers face, and how you as a family can help.
Lack of Family Support
If the primary caregiver is a relative, they often face the challenge of getting support from other members in the family. Some family members are in denial about the severity of their mom or dad's health problems. Others live far away and feel that there is nothing they can do.
Family members should have regular conference calls and meetings with the caregiver and be open to the dialog that results. Only by listening to the caregiver and viewing their parent with realistic eyes will they be able to truly lighten the load when it comes to caregiving.
Weight of Responsibility
Taking care of anyone is a challenge, but the responsibility involved with being a caregiver for the elderly is much different than that of a child. The individual is an adult, has lived an independent life for much of his or her years, and may sincerely believe that there is nothing wrong with their health.
If the elderly person experiences dementia, there is the issue of memory loss and confusion. The person may feel that they can still drive, go to work, or pay their bills when in fact they need assistance. In home care providers need to give respectful care that honors the person's life and age.
Many caregivers are dedicated to their job and as a result feel burnout from time to time. Their time and schedule is much different than the average job, and sick days or vacations can be limited or nonexistent, especially if the family is not able or willing to help.
Family members should volunteer to relieve the caregiver from his or her duties for a couple weeks or hire temporary help that can give the caregiver a break.
Family caregivers in particular often face monetary challenges when it comes to the care of their loved one. Many can't afford professional help, and pay grocery, health, and clothing bills for their loved one themselves.
Families should understand that caregiving is the responsibility of the entire family, not just the person who lives closest. If someone lives far away, they should discuss financial help with the caregiver.
Sadness and Grief at the Change in Relationship
Home healthcare providers that care for their parents often note feelings of sadness and grief at the change in their relationship. There is a grieving period necessarily for any change in life, and losing the relationship you once shared with a parent is something that will take time to fully process. In the meantime, your work as a caregiver goes on.
Grief is natural at this stage, but caregivers should seek out support in the form of other family members and counseling to help get through the feelings of sadness.
Having to Take a Leadership Role
The interesting thing about families is that they often keep their same "roles" that they had when they were children. The oldest, for example, will think he's still in charge even though he lives far away. The youngest may be the one who has taken on the role of caregiver, and yet still feels the need to "get approval" from the older sibling.
Family members should encourage the caregiver as their role as family leader takes shape. They will need to be assertive in order to give updates and also ask for what they need.