Caregiving

Help to begin your caretaker journey.

Caregivers provide care for dependent adults for various reasons and in different ways. Many family caregivers find themselves gradually taking on more tasks as older relatives become increasingly frail. Others are suddenly thrust into the caregiving role when a life even or health crisis decreases the care receiver’s independence. No one anticipates what it takes to provide care for others, but one thing is certain – caregivers do not have experience the journey alone. There are about 41.8 million informal caregivers of adults aged 50+ in the U.S., and they have a lot to share about their experiences. There are many resources available to help caregivers along the way.

 

Caregiving takes a lot of time and dedication.

Caregivers should remember that taking care of themselves will also benefit their families, friends, and the care receiver. Meeting personal needs will give them additional strength and energy to bring to their caregiving tasks and will allow them to thrive and not just survive their caregiving journey.

Illinois Extension has several guides to help your caretaker journey.

Read more on these challenges to caretaking.

  • When Families Disagree: When a caregiving crisis occurs within a family, it can bring family members closer together or it can drive them apart. As the demands of caregiving increase, family caregivers may find it difficult to balance the tasks at hand with the needs of other family members. Past family conflicts may resurface during this time.
  • Using Guilt Constructively: Many caregivers experience feelings of guilt. Guilt, like fear, often does not follow the rules of logic. Guilt feelings that are ignored can add to stress and may become debilitating and undermine self-confidence.
  • Making Frustration Work for You: Angry feelings are okay. Anger is a healthy, normal emotion triggered by an event. Our response to angry feelings determines whether anger becomes a positive or negative force.
  • Facing Fear: Fear is a normal emotion for caregivers. It does not always follow the rules of logic, but it is neither good nor bad. The way we handle our feelings of fear is important. Ignored or mismanaged fear can become crippling so that caregivers may become unable to cope with their responsibilities in a positive manner.
  • Coping with Loss: Caregivers may experience many types of loss, including relationships and social or recreational interaction with friends, spouse, coworkers, and children. As these relationships change or are lost, caregivers may experience many feelings of isolation.
  • Grief in Caregiving: Grief is universal, yet each person experiences it in her own way. Grief is a personal response, and there are no guidelines for how long, when, and in what way a person should grieve.
  • After the Death: The death of someone close to you often leaves a variety of strong emotions, unresolved issues, and uncertainties about how to cope. Feelings of frustration or guilt may cause caregivers to question if they did enough or gave enough.
  • Changing Relationships in Caregiving: As family members age and become more dependent, family caregivers may experience many emotions. Some are new, and some are carryovers from past experiences. As you take on the role of caregiver, you may experience changes in your relationship with the care receiver.
  • Family Dynamics in Distance Caregiving: If distance separates you from family members, you may find yourself supporting a parent or other relative who lives many miles away. You may face challenges that include communicating effectively with caregivers from a distance, feeling that you are not doing enough, and balancing care for yourself with care of others. This can bring on feelings of guilt and frustration.
  • Caregivers Need Family Support: When caring for an adult family member, the primary caregiver provides physical, psychological, financial, and other forms of assistance. Caregiving may involve having the caregiver and the care receiver living together, nearby, or hundreds of miles away. No matter how loving the relationship, caregiving almost always involves some personal sacrifice and stress.
  • Recognizing Your Limitations: Caring for someone can be a challenging and lonely undertaking. Many caregivers experience frustration, anger, impatience, and/or loneliness. These feelings may indicate that something needs to change. Recognizing how much you can do is the first step to managing the situation.
  • Asking For Help as Caregiver: It’s so easy to become isolated you lose sight of your own life when you provide care for someone else. As a caregiver, you may feel overwhelmed with responsibilities. These barriers can lead to distress, loneliness, and exhaustion. You can become a second patient if you aren’t careful.
  • Take a Break and Find Respite Care: The roles and responsibilities you have as a caregiver can be overwhelming. The hours spent in caregiving often leave little time for leisure and getting away for a while. If you don’t take the time for respite, you may become ill.
  • Intimacy in Caregiving: Those in a partner relationship may find themselves caring for each other more and more as needs change. Or sometimes one partner becomes more dependent and the healthier partner becomes the primary caregiver. In either situation, the couple relationship may be impacted.
  • Nurturing Couple Relationships: Caregivers frequently find it challenging to balance the caregiving responsibilities with time for other family members. Responsibilities for parents, children and partners are squeezing caregivers who are in the “sandwich generation.” Demands on the caregiver may leave little time and energy for partners. Many caregivers say they gain strength for caregiving from personal relationships.