There are about 65 million caregivers in the United States looking after aging loved ones, seniors, or people with disabilities, with a further 5 million professional caregivers. Family caregivers spend around 20 hours per week caring for their loved ones, and the caregiving period lasts on average for five years.
Caregivers are often undervalued by both the care recipient and their family, and are commonly unprepared for the effect caregiving has on their lives. Here are a few things that you may want to know before becoming a professional caregiver, or things you need to be aware of in case you unexpectedly find yourself caring for an ill or aging loved one.
1. Caregiving Is Harder Than Expected
Caregiving is a challenging and stressful undertaking, whether you are a professional caregiver or looking after a loved one. Caregivers often feel that caregiving is taking over their lives and they don’t have enough time to recharge. Seniors are often set in their ways and aren’t easy to persuade, even if it is for their own benefit. Working hours are long, and the tasks you will perform are physically and mentally straining.
It is important that caregivers know this in advance so they can prepare themselves mentally and know how to take care of themselves when caregiving for seniors.
2. You Will Be Responsible for a Human Life
Caregiving is a unique job where caregivers have the lives of the people they look after in their hands. Making sure that the right medication is taken at the right time is a serious responsibility, and in the case of an emergency, caregivers need to be able to think on their feet and act quickly to make sure the life of the senior in their care is protected as far as possible.
3. Communication Skills Need to Be Top Notch
Caregivers have to communicate with the care recipient, family members, and his or her doctor on an ongoing basis. Seniors often have hearing impairments, and it can be frustrating and difficult to understand what they are trying to communicate. If the person in your care has dementia, communication is even more challenging. Throughout all of this, caregivers also need to take the feelings of the senior care recipient into account.
Family members often don’t understand circumstances and will try to tell caregivers what to do, even though the caregiver is truly doing the best they can and the best for the person in their care. Having the support of a home care agency to help you with your communication skills and give you guidance on how to handle stressful situations are invaluable.
4. Caregiving Will Affect Your Relationships
Caregivers often find that their relationships are adversely affected when caring for someone, whether as a professional caregiver or someone who looks after a family member. Caregivers don’t have as much time or energy to socialize like they did before. Other family members don’t understand what caregivers are going through on a daily basis and are often quick to critique their efforts. Family caregivers are often frustrated and overwhelmed by the demanding task and may even feel resentment towards their loved one for sitting with a burden they did not ask for. Frustrations are often taken out among family members, especially if there are children in the home.
Caregivers need emotional support from someone who understands and cares. You need someone who can listen to you venting or let you cry. If you don’t have family or friends who can support you, physically and emotionally, consider joining a support group or get in contact with a caregiving agency like Alegre Home Care.
5. Caregivers Must Be Willing to Compromise
As a caregiver, you will often have to make compromises. Sometimes these compromises may be small and may not concern you that much, but other times it may be hard to give up what you want. You may not be able to give up everything the care recipient needs or asks from you, but finding a solution that is acceptable to both parties is essential.
6. Caregiving Is Unique Based on Each Individual
The circumstances of one caregiver will differ completely from the next. Each senior care recipient is unique and the way each caregiver handles a situation will vary. It will take time to understand each other and learn how to work in synergy with the senior in your care.
7. Your Level of Gratitude Will Increase
When you look after someone every day, your level of appreciation is bound to increase. Although caregiving is demanding, you will often find yourself overcome with gratitude. You will look at your own life differently and feel grateful for your own health. Family caregivers often feel blessed that they can spend so much time with an aging loved one, and little moments when seniors with dementia remember a special memory they shared are priceless.
8. Not Everyone Is Cut out to Be a Caregiver
Caregiving is a vocation, not a job. Caring for another human being is really hard. It is physically and emotionally draining, and your heart really needs to be in it to make it work. If you consider a career in caregiving, get in touch with us to help with your decision. If you’re a family caregiver that needs to look after an aging or ill loved one, let’s discuss alternative options or the kind of support we can provide for you throughout.
The Road Ahead for Caregivers
Every caregiver needs support. Join a support group or get in touch with a caregiving agency like Alegre Home Care. The advice and assistance you’ll receive are invaluable: it will carry you through painful and exhausting times and give you the courage to keep going when the going gets tough.