Supporting the Family Caregiver
Thanks to advances in medical research and treatments, even those with chronic illnesses or disabilities are living longer, often turning to a family member or spouse to help with activities of daily living, healthcare tasks or medication management. These family caregivers provide the care, support and assistance an aging loved one may need, facing challenges and uncertainties every day.
It’s not uncommon for family caregivers to become overwhelmed with their caregiving duties. While they want to support their aging loved one as much as possible, it’s also important to balance their own needs with those of the care recipient. When caregivers begin to neglect their own well-being, their mental, physical and emotional health will suffer. They can face caregiver stress syndrome, which occurs when the amount of their caregiving responsibilities has led to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, or even the use of drugs or alcohol.
Seeking Caregiver Support Groups and Respite Care
When caregivers take a break or seek support for their caregiving duties regularly, they are provided with the opportunity to actually become better caregivers. If they aren’t taking care of themselves, their health can start to suffer, which means the care they provide to loved ones will suffer, too.
Although many caregivers may feel guilty seeking help for their caregiving responsibilities, it’s important for them to remember their role outside of caregiver, whether that is wife, husband, mother, father, friend, etc. While caregiving is an important part of their lives, sometimes those duties can leave little time to attend to their own needs.
It’s vital for caregivers to seek support and relief from caregiving duties from time to time. Finding a support group, for instance, provides an opportunity to connect with others and share common experiences. Or, respite care services offer a break from caregiving, allowing caregivers time to run errands or go on a much-needed vacation.
Support Groups for Caregivers
A few of the main benefits for joining a caregiver support group include:
- Education: Caregivers can learn from each other by discussing what techniques have worked, how to solve certain problems, and where to turn for additional resources when needed.
- Compassion: A support group provides the compassion and comfort caregivers may need. Sharing similar experiences helps caregivers feel less isolated on their journey.
- Affirmation: While every caregiving situation is unique, discussing caregiving duties with others going through the same types of issues provides a sense of peace; that you are all doing the best you can.
- Friendship: Often, long-lasting friendships are formed in caregiver support groups. Sharing a common struggle helps form a bond that can sometimes feel as close as family.
Seeking respite care services is also extremely beneficial to caregivers. Respite care provides short-term care in the home or a facility to allow time for caregivers to tend to their own needs for a while. Services are available through home health care companies, community agencies, assisted living or skilled nursing facilities. Remember, caregivers who put themselves last all the time are more likely to suffer from caregiver burnout, which leads to social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, and a variety of other health problems.