Taking Care of Our Caregivers
Recognizing the function of a caregiver can help obtain the support they may need.
As the population continues to age, more people are providing care to a family member or loved one. According to AARP’s 2020 report, “Caregiving in the U.S.”, approximately 53 million U.S. adults are caregivers.
An informal caregiver provides aid to someone — whether a spouse or partner, disabled child or family member — that needs assistance to complete daily-life activities. Relatives who actively take daily care of a family member often don’t consider themselves as caregivers. Rather, they see it as a family obligation to look out for those who cannot look after themselves.
This is the case for Maria, who had to step up and take care of her mother. Due to her mom’s advanced age and Alzheimer diagnosis, she can no longer complete daily life activities such as changing clothes, eating and tending to personal hygiene, and required Maria’s assistance.
Maria found out how demanding the responsibility of taking care of another human is. The tasks are difficult to complete and have even taken a toll on her health. On one occasion, Maria shared, when she attempted to lift her mother to help dress her, she suffered a back injury that limited her normal activities.
“When someone is in charge of a family member,” said Maria, “it’s an act of love to provide care for someone who needs it to survive. It’s also difficult informing my brothers about how my mother is doing. Sometimes they expect to hear good, but it’s hard when someone continues to deteriorate.”
Stressful but Rewarding
For all the stress it causes, providing care for a sick person is rewarding. The majority of caregivers say being present for a loved one when they need it most is a priceless feeling.
On the other hand, the switch of roles and resulting emotions can naturally cause anger, frustration and exhaustion; and these feelings can make caregivers feel alone or sad. The stress of a caregiver can be emotionally draining, and sometimes caregivers suffer physical strain that can leave their health vulnerable.
Often caregivers become so focused on the health of the loved one that they start to neglect their own health and well-being. Being under a lot of stress, especially for a long time, can also cause health issues.
Caregivers have higher probabilities to show symptoms of depression or anxiety. The combination of a caretaker’s usual lack of sleep, exercise and unhealthy levels of nutrition increases the risk of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
Practice Does Not Make Perfect
The emotional and physical demands that come from caring for someone can cause stress even to the most resilient caregiver, which is why it’s necessary to take advantage of all resources and tools available to help. It’s important to learn how to accept help.
Experts in caregiving recommend making a list of activities that others can do to help care for a loved one. For example, a friend might be able to provide safe and reliable transportation for a loved one to get to appointments. Family members could take care of the groceries, go shopping or provide meals to relieve some of the caretaker responsibilities.
Another thing for informal caregivers to keep in mind is that feeling inadequate for the job is normal. During those times when guilt creeps in, it’s crucial to be realistic and understand that the “perfect” caregiver does not exist. It’s important for the caretaker to remember they are doing their best and are making the appropriate decisions.
“Cafecito Time con Equality Health” Eases the Stress
If you are a caregiver or know of someone who takes care of a loved one, join us on Cafecito con Equality Health this Thursday, September 23 at noon. By tuning in, you will have an opportunity to learn more about the challenging task of a caregiver and resources that offer support to the family.
As always, María Rebozo-La Pine will serve as moderator. Her guest is Bianca Martinez Raymond, a social worker, psychology educator and expert in caregiving. Martinez Raymond will share invaluable insights on how to handle the challenges of caregiving to more fully experience the rewards.
The meeting will be available in Spanish and English via Zoom and Facebook Live. To register for this very informative Cafecito Time con Equality Health, visit www.equalityhealth.com/cafecito.
Published in Prensa Arizona, 9/9/2021