‘Family caregiver’ describes anyone who helps another family member with their routine, daily activities. We often think of it as a full-time job of taking care of someone who has more dependent or even medical needs, but you are also a caregiver even if you assist someone with lighter tasks such as housework or simply providing companionship to an individual who has difficulty getting out. Caregivers may provide a few hours a week, a few hours a day, or can be live-in and provide round-the-clock assistance to a senior loved one.
Being a caregiver – especially for a loved one – can be a very rewarding task. But caregivers can experience a number of health issues that they may not have been subject to otherwise that you should look out for. It is important for a family caregiver to make their own health a priority, as you will not be much good as a caregiver if you don’t have your own health! Some issues that are most common to family caregivers include:
- Stress – both physical and emotional tolls can be great when caring for a loved one, especially with Alzheimer’s or other dementia
- Financial – personal spending to meet the needs of the ones you love can become overwhelming, especially if covering some or all of the cost of care needed by a loved one with a long-term illness; can be worsened if caregiving interferes with your paying job
- Depression and isolation – often experienced by those who spend so much of the time caring for the needs of family members, especially when they need constant care
- Caregiver burnout and guilt – all of the above and more take their toll on a family caregiver, especially over the duration of a long and progressive disease like dementia.
If you are in the process of adapting to a new routine of caring, make a plan for self care by scheduling in your own time in advance – make sure there is plenty of opportunity for respite so that you have time for your health and wellness, to spend time with your friends/family, and work if it is a factor.