• Is Caregiver Stress Ruining Your Relationships?

    Throughout our lives most of us will be faced with caring for a loved one.  Of course we all want the best for our loved ones and feel compelled to provide the care ourselves to avoid the nightmare of unethical or substandard care. 

    Unfortunately, if you are caring for a loved one over a long time, relationships can suffer as well as your health and wellbeing.  Once someone becomes a caregiver the relationship between the caregiver and the loved one changes dramatically.  For most people, being a caregiver to someone you love is emotionally painful as it can be seen as an indicator of permanent changes that will prevent that person from being themselves and may also be indicative of the impending end of their life.  The grief that often accompanies being a caregiver often leads to that person emotionally separating from their loved one in order to feel like they can face the necessary caregiving tasks.  This changes the relationship between the caregiver and loved one significantly and often leads to changes in roles.  For example a son or a daughter starts taking on the role of being the caregiver (parent-like), thus ending their relationship as they have known it.   

     Some caregivers end up becoming ill themselves, due to stress, making them unable to care for their loved one; or become emotionally burnt out and feel very frustrated, guilty, and angry.   Full time caregiving can also affect the care- giver’s marriage as well as their relationship with their children and siblings.  The bottom line is, although full time caregiving starts out well intentioned, it can spiral into an unhealthy time for the whole family. 

    How can your loved one receive quality, loving care while maintaining family roles and healthy relationships?

    • Families can divide caregiving tasks, making sure that everyone has adequate time off and each person’s needs are addressed.

    • A good compromise is to assign personal care tasks to a Certified Nursing Assistant.  This can be very helpful in allowing the family to maintain roles as spouses, children, etc.  Many people feel more comfortable with having a professional provide personal care such as bathing.

    • Many home care agencies also offer respite volunteers, which can provide the family with a well deserved break.

    • Many states have respite programs and financial assistance for in-home care.  Contact your local Department of Elderly Affairs or Department of Human Services.

    • Many states also offer friendly visitor programs, and discounted homemaker programs.

    Being a caregiver for a loved one can be very difficult despite having a very close and loving relationship with your loved one.  Guilt is an emotion that many people face when undertaking the caregiver role seems to be more than they can handle.  It is important to realize that you must have realistic expectations of yourself.  Caring for a loved one requires more than any one person can do and should be considered a team effort.  It is unrealistic for someone to care for a loved one full time while managing their own household, family obligations, work, school and self-care.  There are also many emotional costs to being a lone, full time caregiver, including loss of relationships, health and emotional well-being.

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