Caregiving Changes You
Caregiving includes a series of transitions. As the physical, cognitive and behavioral needs of our loved one increase, so do our caregiving responsibilities. Just as life has changed for our loved one, it has also changed for us.
We started out enthusiastically doing caregiving activities that were not previously our responsibility. Shopping, preparing meals or accompanying our loved one to medical appointments; this was all novel and easy to fit into our schedule.
Before we could really grasp what was happening, we found ourselves doing caregiving activities that extend far beyond what we ever anticipated, pushing our boundaries to an uncomfortable level. We went from helping with laundry and paying the bills to doing more of the day-to-day personal care needs such as dressing, bathing, feeding or toileting.
And at some point, along this journey, we will need to make decisions that we never thought we’d have to make, such as when our loved one’s care needs become more than we can safely handle or when we need to make end-of-life care decisions.
Being a caregiver, no matter if it’s full-time or part-time, has its consequences. Because we put all our focus into our loved one's needs, oftentimes disregarding our own, caregiver stress and burnout are common. Exhaustion, fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, depression and sadness are just some of the negative effects of being a caregiver. Caregiving can be detrimental to both our physical and mental health. Caregiving can also change our family and friendship dynamics and have lasting negative effects on prior close relationships. The key to all this is to find support for yourself and help with your caregiving responsibilities; you can’t do this alone.
But being a caregiver also has its rewards. Sometimes it’s hard to see the benefits of being a caregiver when you are in the middle of it all. With the increased time spent together, it can help you form deeper connections with your loved one and let you give back the care and support they gave you. Throughout your caregiving years, you will develop increased confidence. After handling crisis after crisis, you learn to trust your abilities and competence in dealing with doctors, insurance companies or home care aides. Caregiving instills patience and understanding. These new skills will creep into your personal life. Caregiving can teach you to deal with anything.
Caregiving also gives you a look into your future and can help define what you will want and/or need as you age.
Being a caregiver has its highs and lows. But one thing is certain: caregiving changes you, and those changes stay with you long after your caregiving responsibilities end.
Stay well, stay healthy, stay connected,