Breaking down the “Care” and the “Giving”
What is a Caregiver?
A caregiver is a person who provides care for another. One may be a caregiver for a baby or child, perhaps a caregiver for an aging person or someone with a chronic illness or disability. Caregivers are responsible for safety, emotional support, and physical care of individuals who are not able to provide it to themselves. Some caregivers are paid and some are unpaid. Family caregivers are often unpaid. Family caregivers are often acting out of love, commitment, and compassion. They are quite possibly making considerable sacrifices and bearing significant stress related to their caregiving responsibilities.
Do you have any family caregiving responsibilities? Do you know anyone who does? If you have some, how do these family caregiving responsibilities fit into your life and is it ever hard to make room for them with everything you have going on in your life?
November is National Family Caregivers Month. It has been recognized since 1994 as a month to honor, support, and celebrate family caregivers. Every year since 1994, the United States President has made a formal proclamation recognizing family caregivers in November. In the spirit of family caregivers, let’s take a look at some of the dynamics at play in this partially challenging, rewarding, often undervalued role.
Complexities of Caregiving
While all family caregivers’ situations are unique and their own, there are some common themes that are frequently raised by caregivers:
- Emotional Stress — frequently, due to lack of support whether at home or the workplace, caregivers are emotionally worn out. While they love greatly and feel intense compassion, these good emotions can be emotionally taxing. Caregivers supporting family members need to be supported as well.
- Financial Impact — Maybe because a family caregiver has to cut back hours at work to meet caregiving responsibilities, or maybe the family member being cared for has unmet financial needs, but the financial impact on caregivers can be burdensome.
- Navigation of Healthcare System Challenges — Ensuring proper medical care is in place and negotiating the systems at play can be extensive and exhausting. This may also contribute to the emotional stress and the financial stress we’ve previously mentioned.
Increase Support of Others, Decreased Support of Self
There are many formal networks such as Family Caregiver Alliance and The National Alliance for Caregiving that exist with the mission to support caregivers. It’s heartening to see the breadth of resources available to the too often underserved population of caregivers. There is empirical data supporting the many challenges and increased stressors that family caregivers face. Notably and perhaps unsurprisingly, family caregivers are at a greater risk of suffering from lack of addressing their own health and wellness issues. This is so often due to their limited bandwidth to prioritize their own needs.
Ways for Caregivers to Engage in Self Care
It’s a common theme, replayed often, especially these days: helpers need help, too. Below are some common and often overlooked ways for caregivers to take care of their own needs:
- Talk to someone, like one of the counselors on our team
- Take time for yourself
- Ask for help
- Exercise regularly
- Drink more water
- Prioritize sleep
If you are a caregiver in need of care or a helper who needs help, please reach out. If you want to learn more about tools that can help you, a licensed therapist or counselor can support you with your goals.
Ruth enjoys spending time with her family, friends and dog. She loves to cook, spend time outdoors and go to the beach (even when it’s cold outside).
Check out Ruth’s professional bio here!
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Next Steps & Resources
- Are you ready to take your first step? Reach out to us.
- Do you feel that you or your child or teen may benefit from counseling during this time? Take the first step.
- Interested in online counseling? Learn more.
- Learn more about the advocacy related to supporting caregivers by clicking here
- Learn more about support resources for family caregivers by clicking here