Becoming a family caregiver may not be something you planned for. As your parents age, they may need help with a few tasks here and there, but as they get older or even ill, they may start to rely on you more and more.
Your role can quickly transition from buying groceries and taking them to medical appointments, to everyday care and managing finances and medical records. Eventually, without you even realizing, or planning for, you’ve become a full-time caregiver.
Family caregiving (also called informal caregiving) has become increasingly widespread in the United States, with approximately 34.2 million people a year providing unpaid care to an elderly adult. While caregiving can be a rewarding experience that strengthens your bond with your parent or family member, it can also be a complex situation to navigate, leading to strains and conflicts within the relationship, role confusion, and caregiver burnout.
CaraVita Home Care offers in-home care services throughout the Metro Atlanta area, and we recognize that while fulfilling, caregiving for a close family member can cause tension within the relationship. We’re sharing some tips on how to protect and maintain your personal relationship beyond being a caregiver.
Since many caregiving situations start as informal caregiving within the family, there are usually no boundaries or guidelines outlined and agreed upon from the beginning. Unfortunately, most caregivers assume that they won’t need boundaries. After all, you’re taking care of mom or dad; what boundaries would you need to set, right?
However, establishing a clear set of boundaries can be an excellent way to avoid role confusion and maintain a healthy relationship between everyone involved.
Before you settle into your caregiver role, talk with your parent or family member to set clear expectations. Be honest about what is reasonable and manageable for you to handle, and be prepared to explain that there might be certain things you are unable to do. Making sure that your terms are understood and accepted by your parent is a crucial step in forming a stable caregiving relationship.
It’s Okay to Say “No”
In addition to being conscious of your role and boundaries, you have to be willing to say no without feeling guilty. If you and your family have agreed upon specific duties and boundaries, you—as the caregiver—are not obligated to do more than those. This can be extremely difficult for family caregivers, especially adult daughters, as you may feel responsible for caring for your family member, and feel like you can’t say no to anything they may need. In order for your caregiver-care receiver relationship to work, you must set guidelines but also follow through with them.
In the long run, this will not only protect the familial relationship but will also reduce stress and frustration as the caregiver.
Understand Your Personal Roles
Since many people seem to be thrust into family caregiving with no guidance or direction, it can sometimes be hard to discern your role as caregiver versus the other important roles in your life. This role confusion can make it challenging to separate who you are as a caregiver from who you are as a mother/father, a friend, a spouse, or an employee.
A caregiver may be something that you are, but it’s not the only thing that you are. If you are only focusing on caring for your parent, you may neglect the other important roles in your life, and this could lead to frustration and strain in more relationships than one, and can eventually lead to caregiver burnout.
By understanding the roles in your life (and reminding yourself when you forget), you can avoid role confusion, protect your relationships, and ultimately be a stronger caregiver.
Beyond this, as a family caregiver, you have to remember to separate your role as caregiver versus your role as the individual’s daughter/son, wife/husband, etc. To protect this distinction, make sure you are taking the time to check in with that relationship. If you only see your mom or dad as your “responsibility,” your relationship as their child will likely suffer.
If you find that caring for your parent or family member is causing too much stress or is putting a strain on your familial and other relationships, there are other options. Both respite care and in-home care can be beneficial solutions for those who are worried about the emotional, financial, and personal strains that come with caring for a family member.
While respite care is an excellent short-term option for family caregivers who may just need a break to focus on the other roles in their life, in-home care is a longer-term care option that is customizable to your loved one’s level of health and care needs.
At CaraVita Home Care, located in Roswell, Georgia, we have several choices for in-home care services. Companion care, for example, focuses on your loved one’s social wellness and basic needs, like transportation to appointments, while our skilled care provides individual attention and health management. With our varying levels of in-home care, we can provide your loved one with the care they need, when they need it.
Being a family caregiver is a rewarding experience, but it also comes with its challenges. If you don’t establish clear boundaries from the onset, your role as a caregiver can potentially harm the most important relationships in your life. If you’ve found yourself thrust into the role of caregiver and are overwhelmed, worried that you can’t meet others’ expectations, and concerned about the state of your personal relationships, consider CaraVita Home Care. Our compassionate and caring team can help customize care in order to best support you and your family.
If you are interested in learning more about different in-home care options, contact us today!