The Journey of Caregiving

By South Plains Area Agency on Aging

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You have begun a very important journey. The information in this Guide will assist you in finding your way through the challenges and opportunities of caregiving.

There are about 15 million caregivers in the United States caring for someone over 50.(1) In addition, there are millions of families made-up of grandparents raising their grandchildren and the number continues to grow. Family caregivers provide at least two-thirds of all home care services in the US. 

Caregivers provide critically needed care that allows infirm older people to remain in their homes longer. Also, grandchildren may have behavior problems or need extra help, especially if they are coming from a situation where they were neglected or abused. Caring for an elderly family member or grandchild can be very rewarding but often frustrating. It creates conflicting emotions. If, as a caregiver, you neglect yourself, the stress of caregiving can take its toll.

Seek help early. Don't wait until you are totally burned out. Educate yourself about the disease or disability you are working with, its progression and how to adapt to the various stages. Learn about the losses to come so they will not be unexpected. Don't neglect to plan for the future. Good planning includes getting a power of attorney, accessing community care early and filling out placement papers before they are needed.

You must recognize the hidden grief component of your anger, anxiety, guilt and depression. Expect adaptation, but no resolution of your grief. Make sure you have a family doctor who is willing to listen and understand. Establish good communication with all your health care providers. 

To avoid burnout and thus be unable to fulfill your caregiver duties, find someone to talk with and discuss your feelings. Set realistic goals. Don't try to be a Super Hero. Determine your priorities and ask others for help when needed. Talk to a professional. Clergy, social workers, psychologists and nurses are often trained to provide counseling on caregiving issues. 

Above all, take one day at a time. Both you and the person you are caring for will benefit once you learn your limits and how to meet your own needs. This Guide is offered to make your journey easier.
1. Both of these reports used data from 1994 National Long-Term Care Survey. The Health and Human Services report also incorporated data from the 1982 National Long-Term Care Survey and the Informal Caregiver Supplement to the 1989 National Long-Term Care Survey. National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (June, 1997). Family Caregiving in the U.S.: Findings From a National Survey, National Alliance for Caregiving, Bethesda, MD and AARP, Washington, DC.