CAN CAREGIVING RUIN MY LIFE?
Can or does Caregiving ruin my life? Doesn’t that say it all? If I asked 1000 family caregivers if caregiving ruined their life, what would you think the answer would be?
A small number of 400-700 caregivers either had a decline of their health and relationships while caregiving! At about 40-70% of family caregivers have a decline of their mental or physical health, heading to chronic conditions and increased depression and anxiety. Which is no surprise really. Is it? It’s probably the most difficult job that you can have. Please ask if you can get “FIRED” from it if you can!! Just kidding….. no I’m not….
In 2018, about 8 million people provide care in Canada for their loved one. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-652-x/89-652-x2013001-eng.htm
In 2015 about 43.5 million people provide care for their loved one in United States. https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-demographics
Caregiving can be a positive experience, but without proper support, the stress associated with caregiving responsibilities can comprise your health as well as your care recipient.
“Here in BC, 31% of unpaid caregivers report significant distress. While caring for a loved one can be rewarding, it can also be exhausting and frustrating. Most non-professional caregivers do not receive training in the care they provide, and the experience can be isolating and lead to burnout.
Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Weakened immune system
- Irritability or aggression
- Prolonged lack of energy and a lack of interest in things that used to make you happy”
The most difficult job in the world and what do you really know about it? Do you know what to do? Do you know what to say? Do you have medical training, or counselling designations to challenge this new project, or should we call it a journey? Most of us don’t but we still feel we have to do it. We feel so many things, like grief of the person that has changed and now needs care. They are not the same and will never be the same again.
There is stress and frustration because of the new world that you now have. All of the pressures from this “sandwich generation” that we seem to be squeezed into by no choice of our own. It’s kind of funny isn’t it? When you agreed to this caregiving job, it wasn’t suppose to take over your life.
Just be aware of the burden it can take over your mental and physical health, perhaps from the lack of the support that you may have near you, or resources and guidance. But, one good thing that has come out of this Pandemic 2020 is that there have been more on-line webinars, counselling and support zoom meetings that you can attend from just about anywhere.
It is also a great idea to ensure you have a contingency plan in place from the beginning because you will need it. It might be just about a weekend away, or an afternoon to get some errands done.
Another great interview this week with Nancy Glover, from Aging with Grace, explained these details in a lot of depth for us. The most important 5 things that you should have in your Toolkit!
- GROUNDING because you have to go inside. Clarity of your heart and mindset. You need to know what reason that you have for caregiving. This will impact you and your patient.
- RELATIONSHIPS – clarity of connections. Everyone in your family unit is affected, and giving space for everyone to be heard and understood. Giving solutions for the situation and a safe place that everyone is heard and acknowledged. A mediator might be an option. Being as proactive as possible so that you are prepared. A family meeting would be beneficial with or without a mediator. MY VOICE is a booklet for listing your values and where your family can honor your wishes. Here is the link : https://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2013/MyVoice-AdvanceCarePlanningGuide.pdf
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Clarity of accomplishment. Be aware of what you have accomplished so far. And you can only do what you can do at the moment, for what you have done. Because you are everything to everyone, and be easier on yourself. What is working and what are the gaps in my plans? You may need a 3rd party to see what you are missing or acknowledging.
- CONFIDENCE: Clarity of competence. Sometimes we have to do some medical ostomy bags, oxygen, IV’s, and you may not feel confident in what your new roles are. Acknowledge that you are doing the best you can. Create a Health team for support that you can call upon.
- EMPOWERMENT: Clarity of possibilities. To be an effective voice for your patient. To know their wishes, and not try to guess. Be more than a Caregiver, so that you will still have a life after your patient has either gone into a home full-time or passed away. The guilt will kick in because you feel that 100% of your time is for the patient. You may have to see your self perseverance to move forward. Don’t end up in the hospital! You are very important! The final stage of transition.
Having these uncomfortable conversations beforehand, be proactive, be prepared. A very pivoting time of transition for your family, let’s talk! Get these important documents in place and up-dated. So important because of the financial and emotional impact it can make on the family. Here are the list of 3 Documents that you need to put in place before it’s too late!
- A current Will that is up-to-date
- Power of Attorney current – a document for when you are living but need assistance from someone that is designated to do your day to day business and be your voice.
- A Healthcare Initiative of some sort, this document has many names but check in your area what the appropriate name is. It will look after your medical care when you are unable to be your own voice for what you want. This also assists your medical team that doesn’t appreciate to make any necessary choices and decisions for you because it’s not up to them. It puts them in a very precarious position.
Caregiver obligations are also right up there! Not only have we not really agreed to this 24/7 job or journey, but we also haven’t agreed to all of the GUILT that you will experience. But, hey, it’s like you’ll have that guilt whether you are physically supervising and caring for the Care recipient but also feel guilt even after if you have to take the leap and put them into a care home where they will have full-time care, with meals, nurses and care aides. Even then we will feel guilt, the why can’t I do it overtakes our ideals.
But, if you don’t step up either with more caregivers around the clock to help you so that they can stay at home for their care you will have to decide to take the leap and either financially bite the bullet to pay for a care facility. Because at all times, you will need to decide to keep a schedule for yourself with “your time”. A place where you can do YOU! A hobby, exercise, salon day, take a course, go on a trip or vacation, or a girl’s/guy’s night out. But the problem with that, seems to be, “I have enough on my plate”. “How will I ever put anything else in my head?” But, it’s so important, even physicians now are discussing the changes with you at some point, “It’s time,” he says. Maybe they can see it easier than we can because we are in it!!!
There are a few things that you need to look at from the beginning of your journey and also during when the care recipient will also change mentally and physically more over some time. Some time a short length of time, it can progress at a very rapid rate and then it can progress very slowly as well, but we need to be prepared with the next plan. But not only medically, can they change but your plan can change financially, and also family dynamics can change too. And sometimes we will need intervention of some sort to take place, like a counsellor which is well versed in family caregiving. You can also contact a mediator, and/or caregiving support. Which is what some of the assistance that Nancy Glover, from www.agingwithgrace.ca.
So in recap, once you take on this journey with your loved one, make sure you have the following:
- Why do you want to be the main caregiver? What team can you put together for yourself for your own support team
- Look at the financial obligations and how this will look
- Have a family meeting to put together some decisions and find some solutions around the family dynamics
- Get your Documents completed – A current Will, a Power of Attorney, and a Healthcare initiative.
- Be planning for the changes that will occur
- Be YOU, be the best YOU. Don’t forget your own self. Self care and Self love.
For any assistance with some workshops, and support check out this link:
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