If you’re caregiving, you likely know the challenges all too well. Most caregivers get little or no support and many say they felt ill-prepared for the role. Additionally, those who are caregiving often do so while suffering from poor health. Most caregivers find caregiving to be stressful, and about half say it’s overwhelming. Due to this burden and feelings of isolation, from 20-40% of caregivers experience depression.
Along with the physical and emotional strain, caregiving has significant financial consequences. Caregivers lose about $659,139 over a lifetime: $25,494 in Social Security benefits; $67,202 in pension benefits; and $566,443 in lost wages. Working caregivers often suffer work-related difficulties. Sixty-seven percent of family caregivers report conflicts between caregiving and employment. This often results in reduced work hours or unpaid leave.
But, caregiving also has many positive effects. And, most caregivers say it has been a rewarding experience. Therefore, today we want to share some ways to transform your experience of caregiving. If you’re constantly in crisis mode and stressed, these steps can help you have a caregiving transformation.
Steps for a Caregiving Transformation
1. Get respite.
This must be the #1 step we mention because it is essential. If you never get a break from caregiving, you cannot be the best caregiver. In fact, 98% of caregivers say respite made them a better caregiver. Without a break, you’re likely to burn out and get sick yourself. Additionally, you’ll be too exhausted to take any other steps to better caregiving. Studies consistently show fewer hospitalizations, reduced marital stress and better mental health with caregiving respite.
We know…this is easier said than done. However, we’re here to help you figure out just how to make this happen. To learn more about respite care options, check out EasyLiving’s Respite Care 101.
Start with just taking a short break and using respite in a way that’s most comfortable. Perhaps you simply schedule a couple hours to take an exercise class or a relaxing drive. You can plan the time when a family member or friend can substitute. Or, try hiring a caregiver to come in but stick close to home if you’re nervous at first. Start small, but encourage yourself to take this step as soon as possible.
To be sure your initial respite experience goes well, download our free Respite Care Checklist.
2. Expand your caregiving help network.
Hopefully, once you try respite, you will see the benefits of getting a break. Now, examine the areas where you could use help. Perhaps there are tasks that cause you lots of stress. Or, just something you don’t like doing. There may be services that can help, whether paying someone to do it or automating things. Alternatively, there may be benefits programs that offer assistance for free or minimal cost. Consider scheduling a care management consultation to identify resources. Save time by talking to an expert who knows what’s out there and can give you all the “caregiving hacks”.
Additionally, this can be where you reach out to your support network. Could a family member or friend help? Many times, caregivers feel alone. In reality, this may be true in many ways. Perhaps you have been given most (or all) of the caregiving burden. However, when you have some space it allows you to think about how you might ask for help. For example, you might be able to get a long-distance family member to assist with research or administrative tasks.
3. Get organized, be prepared.
One of the most stressful parts of caregiving is facing the unexpected. You have to deal with so many different things as a caregiver, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Caregivers facing the highest stress and burnout have often dealt with one crisis after another. While you can’t control everything, you can be as prepared as possible.
Does your loved one have up-to-date legal and advance care planning documents? Do you have paperwork organized and accessible if your loved one has an emergency? Are bills and paperwork taking up hours of your time?
Check out our tips for being prepared for and dealing with “The Dreaded 3 A.M. Phone Call”. Then, Click Here to download our complete caregiving checklist. Tackle a few of the most pressing tasks to get organized. Put together your caregiving toolkit. Also, this is where you might ask for a sibling’s help or hire someone to assist. A little work upfront will lead to a caregiving transformation moving forward.
4. Tackle one of your biggest challenges.
What things about caregiving cause you the most stress? Along with being prepared to help prevent and ease crises, look at your specific concerns.
For example, you may be caregiving for a loved one with dementia. Perhaps they become agitated late in the day, or you can’t get them to take a bath. Get our ultimate guide to dementia care.
Or, maybe you feel like all you ever do is argue with your elderly parent. Is your parent driving you crazy with their negativity? Often, one of the biggest caregiving challenges is getting siblings to agree. As you can see, we have ideas for all of these challenges. You can sign up for our newsletter to get monthly updates. And, our care managers can work with you to find the right solutions. Give us a call at 727-447-5845 or 813-333-5020 to set up a consultation.
Finally, you may feel isolated. If you feel unsupported, caregiving can quickly lead to depression and anxiety. Start by checking out online caregiver support groups such as our Caregivers Community on Facebook. Here’s a list of many online caregiver support communities. Additionally, you can find support groups in your local community. Many of them offer respite care during their meetings.
Overwhelmed with caregiving? Not sure what to do or where to get help?
Take the first step to a caregiving transformation by reaching out to chat with one of our friendly care managers.