Caring for Family Caregivers

by Shaunna Privratsky


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Your loved one becomes very ill. Or there is a terrible accident, leading to life-altering disabilities. Or a life-threatening disease is diagnosed. In the past, it would be all too common for these individuals to be placed in a care facility or nursing home.

That is changing and in a big way. Today, family members in a home setting shoulder eighty percent of long-term care. Becoming a caregiver is a profound lifestyle change. Although you know you are doing the best you can for your loved one, it is important that you recognize and care for yourself, as well.

There are many areas of stress related to family care giving. There are the physical challenges, such as lifting, assisting, bathing, feeding and other tasks. Whenever possible, you should use physical aids and specialized equipment to lessen your burdens.

Try these other coping tips when caring for your loved one. Get training as needed so that you feel confident in medical procedures. This will make your work easier and safer. Work to keep your care recipient as independent as possible. This reduces your stress and helps maintain dignity.

A large part of the care giving process is coping with financial demands. The worry and stress can be caused by medical costs, equipment, lost income, paying hired professionals, loss of employee benefits, planning for long term care financial needs and the day-to-day management of financial concerns.

Identify programs that provide assistance and programs that offer reduced fees. Some great places to start are:

You can also discuss financial needs with other family members, who may be able to help you shoulder the burden. Plan ahead for upcoming medical costs, treatments or therapy. Work with a specialized financial planner when necessary.

Take a look at your own emotional health. Care giving can take a tremendous toll on the caregiver. Between 40% to 70% become clinically depressed, scared, sad, alone and tired. Caregivers tend to put themselves last, or never think of their needs at all, which leads to emotional and even physical pain.

You might feel alone, unappreciated, isolated and frustrated. You may be constantly fatigued and irritable. You may harbor anger at the unfairness of the circumstances. This can lead to discouragement and depression. You may feel like you are missing out on opportunities and feeling overburdened.

Making sure that you are healthy and happy is a crucial part of the care giving process. Taking time off to do something you enjoy may initially lead to feelings of guilt, but when you realize the benefits to everyone when you are re-energized, it is actually a gift to your loved one.

Here are some suggested coping tips to care for yourself. Talk it out with a trusted friend. Be realistic about your limitations and turn to others for help. Take advantage of respite care services to get a break for a few hours. Set aside some personal time to do things that make you happy.

Join a caregiver support group to help you reduce stress, learn about other resources and share feelings. Here are some groups to check out:

Plan ahead for the times you become overwhelmed. It happens to everyone. If you have a plan of action, you will be better prepared to deal with stress. Here are some easy and quick tips on coping:

  • Read a favorite book or magazine
  • Watch a favorite movie
  • Talk with a friend
  • Watch the sunset or sunrise
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Allow yourself some time alone
  • Take a walk
  • Listen to favorite music
  • Reflect on happy memories
  • Spend some time on a favorite hobby
  • Be grateful for what you do have

Care giving can also impact your relationships. You can become resentful of the care recipient, or have insufficient time for other family members. You may neglect your friends. You could disagree with others about the care you are giving, or even feel criticized.

It is important to address these concerns. You can start by involving the care recipient as much as possible in the care decisions. Express your own needs clearly so that you can get the help and support you need. Focus on the positive aspects of the care giving experience by sharing memories, making scrapbooks or shadow boxes.

Take time for other family and friends. Participate in a support network for all those times you feel overwhelmed. No one should have to shoulder the burden alone. By reaching out for the help you need, you are strengthening yourself and making sure that you can provide the best care experience possible.

Family care giving offers the unique experience of caring for a loved one. It also presents many challenges and stressful situations. By identifying useful resources and utilizing help when needed, you are enhancing both of your lives.


Shaunna Privratsky is an expert in personal finance. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

Take the Next Step:

  • Besides the great places above, you may want to visit the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA). The NFCA educates, supports, empowers and speaks up for the more than 50 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age.

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