Health & Fitness, Love

Helping Your Family in Need: Taking on an Unofficial Caregiver Role

Did you know that about $34.2 million Americans have taken care of an adult family member over the age of 50?

Helping a family in need by becoming a caregiver is one of the most important roles a person can take on. Although many people enter this role willingly, there’s a lot they don’t know about being a caregiver.

If you need more information on how to be the best caregiver, read on to get started. 

Familiarize Yourself with Caregiving 

If you’re new to the role of caregiver, the first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with what the role entails. For starters, you should learn as much as you can about the disability or illness of the person you’re caring for. The more you know about it, the better it will prepare you for the role. 

Get in contact with other caregivers to prepare yourself for this new role. Being a caregiver might feel like lonely business at times, so having someone who has gone through it will help you get the support along the way. 

When you take on the role of a caregiver, you also need to trust your instincts. No matter what, you know your family member best, so keep this in mind when following the advice of a professional.

Even if you’re the primary caregiver to a loved one, you also want to encourage the independence of your family member. Don’t cut off all of their freedom because you fear they might get hurt. 

Becoming a caregiver will take a lot out of you in the beginning. If you’re ready to take on the role of a caregiver, you need to identify your limits. 

By identifying your limits, you will be able to become a better caregiver without overextending yourself. 

Don’t Deny Your Feelings 

Oftentimes, caregivers focus on their loved ones and forget to take care of their basic emotions. Becoming a primary caregiver leads to a lot of feelings that people don’t know how to deal with, so they suppress them. 

These are some of the common feelings most caregivers deal with:

Anger and resentment: Even though you’re committed to the role of caregiver, anger, or resentment might creep up on you. 

It’s normal for caregivers to feel feelings of anger or resentment toward the person they’re caring for. Other times, they might simply feel anger towards the circumstances. 

Worry or anxiety: Becoming someone’s primary caregiver is a big responsibility, which can lead to worry and anxiety. 

The primary caregiver might worry about doing a good job or what will happen if they don’t live up to the task. They might also worry about the progression of the illness and how it will affect their loved one in the future. 

Feelings of Guilt: Caregivers try to repress the feelings of guilt they deal with daily. 

Some caregivers deal with guilt over not doing enough, lack of patience, or not being more available. 

Dealing with Grief: Caregivers also deal with grief when caring for their loved ones. If the person is terminally ill, they might start their grief from the moment they learn the news. 

If you’re dealing with any of those feelings, it’s important not to suppress them. Keeping these emotions bottled up will only make your role as a caregiver more difficult.

Find a Caregiver Support Group

Caregivers have one of the noblest roles, but it’s important they don’t do it alone. In order to avoid caregiver burnout, it’s important you find a support group or at least someone to talk to.

If you are sharing the caregiver responsibilities with other family members, it’s important you have clear communication between all of you. Talk about what the needs of your family members are and how you can divide them equally. 

If you don’t have the support of other family members, try to ask friends for help. Taking a few hours a week to meet with your friends and get out of the house, will help you avoid suppressing your feelings. 

Of course, you can also get professional help to help you deal with caregiver burnout. Talking to a therapist will give you the right tools to support your mental health and be the best caregiver. 

Talking to others in the same situation will also help you express your feelings. These services help caregivers everywhere cope with their new roles.

Connect with Your Loved One

As their caregiver, your loved one will depend on you for their basic needs. They will be more comfortable with you as their caregiver if you can connect with them on a deeper level. 

Take this as an opportunity to get to know them more as a person. Learn about their interests, watch their favorite television shows with them, read to them. 

If you can’t communicate verbally with your loved one, you can show them your devotion by making eye contact, using a calming voice, holding their hand, or stroking their cheek. 

Don’t Ignore Your Needs

It’s easy to ignore your basic needs when caring for your loved one. If you ignore your needs and put theirs first, you will suffer from caregiver burnout before you know it. 

Make sure you take time every day to relax and decompress. Try to keep some of your hobbies or stick to your old routine as much as possible. If you used to exercise every day, try to continue doing so. 

It will keep you healthy if you try to maintain your social life. Even if you’re focused on your role as a caregiver, try to get out once a week. 

Try to combine taking care of your needs and the needs of your loved one. If the health of your loved one allows it, try to exercise together or spend time outdoors as much as possible. 

Even if you’re the primary caregiver, don’t forget to make time to laugh.

Family in Need? Become the Best Caregiver for Them

Now that you know how to help your family in need, it’s time you pursue the role of caregiver. Start by familiarizing yourself with the role of caregiver, work on your feelings, get the help you need, connect with your loved one, and don’t stop prioritizing your needs. 

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