According to a study conducted by the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), there are more than 53 million Americans providing unpaid caregiving. While family caregiving can be a rewarding experience, caregivers can face unexpected challenges that can leave them feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and/or restless. While these are normal feelings, there are various ways to help alleviate these emotions. What are the most common problems caregivers face, and what do we do to resolve them? Below are some of the top challenges caregivers face along with tips to resolve each challenge.
Obtaining Access to the Correct Medical Information
During the start of your caregiving journey, it can be difficult to find the correct medical information. When a loved one is taking multiple medications, it can be a challenge managing their medication regimen. There may be questions that come to mind as a caregiver that do not get addressed during a doctor’s office visit. How do we gain confidence when administering medications? illuminate.health effectively addresses this issue. Our pharmacist-led clinical tool increases medication adherence and understanding through notification reminders and direct access to a pharmacist for questions, concerns, and support. Our medication management platform includes medication education and safety checks to minimize confusion and alert individuals of any potentially harmful effects of a medication or medication regimen. Some other great resources that provide information for caregivers are medlineplus.gov, the National Institute on Aging, and aarp.org, which all include guides and advice for all stages of caregiving.
Caregiving is needed, selfless, and tough. Many caregivers carry around an undeserved guilt, with the belief that they are not providing enough for their loved one. This feeling can make caregiving more stressful than it already is. A study by the International Psychogeriatrics identified the different types of caregiver guilt. There is guilt about doing wrong by the care recipient, not rising to the occasion as a caregiver, indulging in self-care, neglecting other relatives, and even having negative feelings towards other people. Do you find yourself resonating with these feelings? It is easy to push these feelings aside and just “deal with it”, but experts have found that there are many simple strategies to ease these feelings. According to beingpatient.com, some of these strategies include naming and recognizing the emotion of guilt, making time in your schedule for self-care, and getting support from those around you.
Caregiver burnout can be defined as a physical and emotional exhaustion brought about by unrelieved stress. By the time most caregivers suspect they are experiencing burnout, they are already suffering from a plethora of symptoms. Some common signs of burnout include lack of energy, a feeling of hopelessness, depression or mood swings, feeling like caregiving is controlling your life, sleep problems, and even lowered resistance to illness. But how do we avoid and/or prevent these feelings? According to vitas.com, some solutions to preempt burnout include making a list of your daily activities and tasks, checking into family-leave benefits at your place of work, ensuring you find time for yourself, and giving yourself permission to take breaks. There are strategies and support for reorganizing your priorities to make you not only a better caregiver, but also a happier person.
Dealing with Finances
Because most family caregivers are unpaid, there can be some financial strain during the caregiving journey, especially when the caregiver has to walk away from their paying job to care for a loved one. Research from AARP shows that nearly 8 in 10 of those caring for an adult family member (78%) are facing regular out-of-pocket costs. To reduce stress, it is essential to learn how to manage financial strain, locate aids, and talk about insurance. A great resource to address this need is your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). An AAA is a public or private non-profit agency, designated by the state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at the regional and local levels. There are also various federal government programs for seniors, such as the Reverse Mortgage Program, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Home Energy Assistance Program.
Transitioning Into the Caregiver Role
Taking on a new role of caregiving can be a daunting task. It can bring about feelings of fear, uncertainty, sadness, and anxiety. If you are in this situation, there are various ways to help manage your new role. First, you must accept the idea that you will need help. Being a caregiver is a demanding role that requires a lot of time and energy. One belief family caregivers often have is that tasks to care for a loved one must be done alone, but this is rarely possible. It is important to reach out to family and friends when you feel overwhelmed. Next, set a goal to make time for yourself while understanding to be flexible. This step may take some time to implement, but having a routine in your schedule to ensure you are caring for your own needs while also caring for a loved one’s needs will help prevent burnout and fatigue. Lastly, connect with a caregiver support group. Caregivers face unique challenges that others might not fully understand. Becoming a caregiver for a family member changes your relationship. While you are still a child or spouse to your loved one, your life is now consumed with their care. This causes many caregivers to grieve the loss of the previous relationship while embarking on the journey of a new one. By connecting with other caregivers, you can share your feelings and empathize with others who are facing the same challenges as you. Here are some helpful sites that can connect you with family caregivers:
Being a caregiver is an act of love, dedication, and responsibility, but it comes at a cost. The caregiving journey is never easy and full of challenges, but there are various ways to tackle them. The emotional and physical demands of caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. By remembering and practicing these tips, you will become more confident when coming across challenges in your caregiving journey.
About the author:
Jennah Worthington is a Brand Ambassador Intern for illuminate.health and is a rising senior studying Healthcare & Business at Butler University. She has a passion for the pharmaceutical industry and gaining a deeper understanding of the roles of health providers, insurers, and administrators. She strives to help find ways to increase accessibility in various areas of healthcare. Jennah resides in Indianapolis and enjoys going on walks with her Dalmatian.