Help Wanted: Family Caregiver
Would you apply for the job of a family caregiver? According to an AARP to Congress report, there are 40 million Americans providing 34 billion hours of unpaid care to an older adult each year. A "Help Wanted" ad might look something like this.
HELP WANTED: CAREGIVER
There is an immediate need for a caregiver to help a loved one in your family.
- Care for client’s social, emotional, physical and mental health
- Assist with personal care including bathing, toileting, showering, etc.
- Manage all domestic chores including preparing meals, cleaning, laundry, running errands, transportation, etc.
- Handle and manage medications
- Learn and understand medical diagnoses and all that it involves
- Have the ability to multitask, be flexible and stay organized
- Demonstrate empathy
- Have the ability to remain calm and handle emergency situations as they arise
- Be exceptionally patient, good at listening and responsive to other’s needs
$0.00/hour, day, year
- No insurance coverage
- No paid/unpaid time off
- No flextime
- No online work options
24/7 On demand
Caregiver education and training requirements
No minimum education or training requirements anticipated or necessary. On-the-job self-training will be expected.
Caregiver experience requirement
No previous experience needed.
As soon as needed
Most people come into their caregiver role suddenly and unexpectedly, usually as a result of a medical emergency or an accident. I came into my caregiving role gradually. After my dad was diagnosed with MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) I knew what lay ahead, but reality had not yet set in. As the months and years wore on and his cognitive abilities declined, it become apparent that I was a full-fledged working caregiver – responsible for my family, my career, myself and my dad. At times it was a bit overwhelming.
But over time I found some basic strategies that helped me keep going:
Acknowledge your feelings
A caregiver can be their own worst enemy. Negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions can undermine one’s best intentions. Anxiety, sadness, anger, guilt and exhaustion are all common.
It is important to understand that these feelings – all of them – are a natural part of being a caregiver and being human. But it is essential to your mental health that you find a counterbalance to these negative thoughts and emotions. Things like mediation, mindfulness, joining a support group, meeting with a professional counselor or talking with a trusted friend. Talking out your feelings can help you gain perspective of your situation. Getting those negative thoughts out of your head allows you to let go of that negative energy.
Don’t be reluctant to ask for help. Asking for help does not mean you’re incapable of handling your caregiving situation. It just means you are one person trying your best to care for family, yourself, your job and your loved one. Many times, friends and family want to help, but they don’t know how. Make it easy for them; keep a running list of tasks and errands that can be done. And if someone offers to help, say yes!
Understand your needs and options
Knowing what care options best fit your loved one’s needs can be tricky. You need to have an open and honest conversation with your loved one about what their thoughts and wishes are for the future (including end-of-life care). And you need to take a hard look at yourself and your network to see what can realistically be done to coordinate and provide the necessary care.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What does my loved one need to live as safely as possible? Are they able to live independently if they have some help in the home with cleaning, shopping and meal preparation? Or do they need continuous supervision throughout the day and/or night?
- How much money is available to pay for outside services? Will insurance cover any of the services? Is your loved one eligible for entitlement programs?
- What can I realistically do to provide the needed care while still having time for my family and myself?
- What days and times do I need the most help? Does my job accommodate a flexible work arrangement?
Take care of yourself
You can’t take care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. Who would step into your caregiving role if something happened to you? It’s the domino effect; the combination of prolonged stress, the physical and emotional demands of caregiving, and the caregiver's own biological vulnerabilities put caregivers at a significant risk for health problems and early death. Caregivers tend to be sleep deprived, have poor eating habits, find excuses not to exercise, continue to work when ill, postpone medical appointments and treatments, and are at a higher risk for depression and substance abuse. Caregivers are also at an increased risk of chronic illnesses such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
During my caregiving years, I would wake up feeling a bit panicky. But I had to get going; there were things I had to do to get my dad, my family and myself ready for the day. For me, being active (taking long walks or joining a UK Health and Wellness exercise or yoga class at lunchtime) was my way of escape. It was a way for me to let go of my anxiety, reduce my stress and clear my mind. But what worked for me might not work for you; you need to find your own escape.
So how do you take care of yourself?
1. Know the signs of caregiver stress and find ways to manage that stress:
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Feeling tired and run down all the time
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overreacting to minor situations
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling resentful
- Neglecting your own needs
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
2. Set and define boundaries for what is acceptable to you, what you have time to do and how much you’re willing to do
3. Avoid teaching helplessness. It happens when you consistently do things or make decisions for other people instead of letting them do it themselves. Over time, people will come to believe they are incapable of doing anything for themselves. It may seem helpful and time saving, but you may be causing a problem down the road.
4. Practice good self-care:
- Get enough sleep.
- Take time to exercise and get outdoors.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Make time for yourself and your other relationships.
- Focus on the things you can control, rather than stressing over the things you can’t.
5. Give yourself some grace
Caregiving can be overwhelming and lonely. Grace is granting yourself forgiveness, showing yourself kindness and finding reprieve. We are all going to make mistakes; it comes with the territory. But know you are doing the best you can right now, and that’s what matters. Talk to yourself as if you are talking to your best friend.
As the "Help Wanted" ad illustrates, this is a demanding job with few benefits other than knowing you are doing good work for someone you love. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them.
Stay well, stay healthy, stay connected,