Being a caregiver to a family member can be rewarding, but it can also take a toll on your emotions, your finances and your family. While you may feel like you have no choice, there are resources that you can consider if you don’t feel like caregiving is the right choice for you.
It doesn’t have to destroy your family bond. Even if you don’t take on the full role of caregiver, you can still have a strong, active role in ensuring your aging parent is safe and healthy. If you have siblings or other family members you can rely on, you can all work together to find the best solution for your parent.
No matter what you decide, you shouldn’t feel guilty about your decision. Becoming a family member’s caregiver alters the relationship. It increases stress and it impacts your finances since you will likely have to step back from work or cover costs of necessities not covered by insurance. Of course, there are also many benefits to caregiving. You will strengthen the bond you have with your caree. You will have the comfort of knowing you did the best you could for the person you love. You will get to spend quality time together at a time where there may not be much time left.
Before jumping into caregiving, consider these questions. Answer them honestly and if in the end, you don’t think you can become a full-time caregiver, decide how much you can do and work with other family members to ensure your parent is cared for and you are all in it together.
Q: Can You Accept Your Loved One’s Old Age?
A: Watching someone you love grow old can be hard and your reaction to it may surprise you. You may get frustrated with them for not being able to do things they used to, or you may coddle them and do too much, making them feel useless.
Q: Do you like this person, not just because they are family?
A: If your relationship has always had conflict, know that it may be exacerbated when they are sick or uncomfortable. If the relationship isn’t solid from the start, it may be difficult to serve as their caregiver.
Q: Can you adjust to having a different role?
A: When a person becomes dependent, it may force their caregiver to take on a new role as the leader. It can be difficult for both of you to adjust to. There may be times where they are doing things that are unsafe or not healthy and you will have to correct the behavior. Are you comfortable doing this?
Q: Are you overburdened?
A: If you already have a full plate – a job, children, spouse, personal obligations – consider what it would take to fit one more responsibility on your plate. You may begin to feel guilty that you can’t do more to help your parent, or aren’t around enough for your children, or you may begin to resent your new role. These feelings are normal. Try to find ways to relieve the pressure and more efficient ways to get things done. If it is just too much for one person to do, bring in other support or outsource responsibilities.
If you do decide to proceed as the caregiver, be sure to care for yourself in the process. You won’t do anyone any good of you don’t first care for yourself. Here are some quick self-care tactics and signs of caregiver stress to keep in mind.