LET’S DEFINE WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
“Family Caregiver” is a very simple term for a varied and complex set of responsibilities.
Most people think of a caregiver as one who attends to the physical needs of another such as bathing, feeding, grooming, and assisting with mobility. Yes, this is a part of it, but it’s far from all that caregiving encompasses, especially for the family caregiver.
This website’s focus is on the family caregiver as opposed to the professional caregiver, because this person faces a different set of challenges. This is due to the range of responsibilities and family relationships involved. Someone who has never assumed the role of family caregiver cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of this special calling.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE FAMILY CAREGIVER
The distinction between a professional caregiver and a family caregiver is vast. The major and most obvious differences are that professional caregivers are paid, have scheduled hours with vacation time and sick days, plus they receive extensive training. The lists below relate to the personal impact, responsibilities, and emotional toll on a family caregiver.
- They are usually unpaid
- They are expected to be available 24/7/365
- They may have been thrust into this role with little or no medical training
- They face uncertainties, challenges, and worries with little recognition or appreciation
- They make sacrifices in their own life: time, money, rest, recreation, job, family, health, and nutrition
- They often bear the brunt of responsibility with little help from others
- They feel the impact of strained relationships within the family
- They are the person’s primary advocate and liaison
- They attend to the physical needs of the patient: lifting, bathing, dressing, feeding, laundry, etc.
- They often must handle finances and other legal or informal paperwork
- They may be responsible for yard work, shopping, and housecleaning, or for hiring someone to do it
- They set up and manage appointments
- They provide, or arrange for, transportation
- They maintain a safe environment, making special accommodations when necessary
- They must learn about the illness or disability, and be alert to changes
- They must understand, administer, and order medications
- They need good listening and communication skills
- They are the peacemaker or counselor when their loved one is upset
- They are often the eyes and ears for their charge
- They must deal with their own emotions as they watch a loved one struggle or decline
- They may feel lonely or depressed under the weight of responsibility
- They mourn the loss of the person they once knew, or had hoped they would be, who is now dependent on them for so many things
- They deal with the emotions of other family members
- Saying “I quit!” is probably not an option
In short, family caregiving can be overwhelming and stressful! However, don’t get discouraged. Let me assure you that you’ll discover many blessings and rewards along the way, as we’ll discuss in future posts.
I understand what you’re facing, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for you. Be proud of yourself for stepping up to the challenge!
As with anything, if you are to stand strong, you must have a firm foundation. You will need to do some soul searching to understand your core beliefs and how they affect your perspective on life. This will determine whether you find this calling to be a burden or a blessing. Why is this so important? Because your perspective becomes your reality.
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