By Leah Brignall
As parents, relatives, and other loved ones age they often need more support in their daily lives than they used to. Whether they are dealing with an illness like dementia, or if they are just physically able to do less, it might become your goal to help. Going from being taken care of by a family member to taking care of them can be a difficult transition physically and emotionally. Some people may just call more often to check in. Others may take on a full time caregiving roll. Whichever the case, there are both challenges and rewards that can come with this type of life change.
Sometimes the pressure of caring for a loved one while also managing your own life can cause “caregiver burnout”. In Caregiver Burnout: The Importance of Self Care, Edie Weinstein discusses more about caregiver burnout. She explains that while a person is acting as a caregiver they often forget to check in with themselves. This is especially likely when the caregiver has children to tend to as well. She reminds us that self care is just as important as caregiving. We cannot truly help others if we do not have our own lives on order.
Even though being a caregiver can be quite challenging, it can also be rewarding. Susan Hooper wrote Compassion for Our Elders to remind us of just that. We have so much to learn from people who are older than us. They have wisdom and life experience that cannot be learned from a book. Spending time caring for an elderly family member can be a great way to learn more about life. Hooper also brings up that it often feels good to give back to the people who gave so much to you. If you have a parent who was always supportive, it might be fulfilling to be able to repay them by helping them in their time of need.
Whether caregiving is your passion, or something you feel you must do, it is important to look at all aspects of it. Remember to check in with yourself. Are you feeling overwhelmed by this responsibility? It is ok to ask for help from friends, family members, or professionals. Doing so may help to relieve some stress so that you are able to enjoy this time with your loved one.