Family Caregiver, Care for Yourself to Be at Your Best in Caring for Others

Do you care for aging parents, grandparents or other elder loved ones?

Are you still caring for your own children at the same time?

Maybe you have young adult children who, like many, “boomeranged” back home and now you care for them, maybe including supporting them financially?

You may be members of the “sandwich generation” who are struggling to deal with the responsibilities of aging parents and growing children.

A 2013 Pew Research Center report addressed sandwich generation caregivers because their numbers were growing quickly and there were specific issues related to this group of people that needed to be discussed.

Family Caregivers

The Pew report found that almost half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older.

These adults are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). As many as 44% are caring for children under 21 years old in addition to their aging parents

In addition, about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

According to the most recent report from the National Alliance for Caregiving, 34 million Americans provided care for older adults in the past year.

Many Family Caregivers Negatively Impacted

Nearly half of these people stated they did not have a choice in becoming a caregiver.

These caregivers are providing not only assistance with daily care but also other tasks such as communicating with health professionals, advocating for their care, transporting them to receive care and also doing skilled nursing tasks with little training.

One in five of these caregivers report that their personal health has declined since becoming a caregiver and feel they have both physical and emotional stress from caregiving.

Unfortunately, six out of ten are employed working on average 34.8 hours a week.

Even though sandwich generation caregivers often report feeling pulled in every direction they report happiness at the same rate as those of their age who are not caregivers.

Don’t Overlook Caring for the Caregiver

It is no wonder that family caregivers who are juggling that many responsibilities wear thin easily.

Getting pulled in every direction, trying to make everyone happy, keeping everyone safe, and meeting everyone’s expectations can be overwhelming.

The last person you might think of keeping healthy is yourself, the caregiver.

It is very important that you stay healthy to meet everyone’s needs.

  1. Get enough rest. If you are tired and irritable, you will have a more difficult time meeting other’s needs. You need to rest to allow your body to recover and heal from the day’s events.
  2. Keep yourself organized so you can manage your time and talents effectively. Make use of technology to schedule activities for everyone in your network for whom you are responsible. You should also schedule time for yourself to get health checkups and respite time.
  3. Have someone ready to back you up when needed. Another person who can take over a few of your duties such as family members or friends can really come in handy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Now is a great time to build your caregiving network so that you have support to lean on and people who can help you when needed.
  4. Learn all you can about the special care needs of your senior loved one so that you can perform duties with the least stress. Most caregivers find hand-on demonstration works better than written instructions especially for medically related tasks.
  5. Determine all your financial options with helpers, paid caregivers, flex time at work, insurance policies, tax credits, family medical leave and other potential benefits. Talk to your employer about your situation to let them know what you need and pursue possible flexible arrangements to help you cope with your responsibilities. Avoid spending your own money on your senior’s care because you will find it difficult to earn enough in the near future for your own retirement and aging needs.
  6. Investigate the possibility of home modifications and technology systems that could make your caregiving experience easier. Some simple changes like moving their bedroom to the first floor or lowering often used items to shelves in reach can help.
  7. If possible, get a durable power of attorney for your senior loved one so that you can get health information and financial information when needed. Being able to access medical information and financial records can be important at times so being prepared ahead of time can relieve this burden in an emergency.
  8. Encourage and facilitate planning for aging with your senior loved one. Be aware of their financial status, long term care insurance and potential caregiving needs.
  9. Realize when more help is needed and you can’t do it alone. If aging parents are no longer capable of remaining where they are, it will be in their (and your) best interests to admit it and get help.
  10. Don’t ignore your own health needs. Get regular checkups, take prescribed medications, get preventive care such as mammograms and immunizations and seek respite so you have time to spend with family and friends to help your own mental health.

Be careful that your caregiving does not take over your life. Find ways to relieve your stress and renew your attitude to face all your caregiving challenges head on.

“Most stress comes from thinking of the past or the future. The present moment is always the most powerful time in your life”.
Craig Townsend

 “When everything seems like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top”