I recently asked a group of family caregivers about their worries. One said, “I really worry about doing enough.” The rest of the group immediately chimed in with animated agreement.
We worry so much as we care for our aging relatives, raise children and keep our career on track. We can end our day with guilt that someone or something didn’t get the attention we wanted to give them. We can begin our day with dread that we’ll disappoint our family members, friend, co-workers and caree. These worries seem to steal our peace of mind and cause so much self-judgement. During caregiving, we need support and peace of mind.
But how do we start building a support network?
According to the Positive Aging Quotient – a study recently released from LifeStation exploring the intersection of the needs of carees with the lives of family caregivers – more than 83% of current caregivers feel caregiving has had some kind of impact on their mental health and relationships, with ‘increased stress and anxiety’ and ‘having less time for themselves’ topping the list.
When examining your overall care plan and the state of your caregiving responsibilities, reflect on these questions:
- What’s going well?
- What’s a challenge?
- How can you help?
- How can others help?
- How can technology help?
Once you gain clarity on the current challenge, you can brainstorm ways to strengthen your support networks.
Reaching Out to Our Extended Social Networks
Talking out what weighs heavy on our hearts can lighten our load. Lean on friends who might be going through a similar season of life, can empathize with your situation, or just serve as an ear to listen. Connect to others who understand through Facebook groups, support groups like Daughterhood Circles, or virtual support groups offered through your Area Agency on Aging. You also can connect to a therapist or a caregiving coach, like a Certified Caregiving Consultant.
People in our lives who care about us genuinely want to help wherever they can. If you know you are entering a busy season at work, or family activities are hitting a peak, lean on extended family members for added support. Don’t hesitate to delegate with members of your Care Circle to make sure all needs of your caree are being met, but all responsibility isn’t falling on you.
We also can remember that we are not the only source of help, support and love. When you can’t, know another can. We can encourage those in our lives to build a network that includes us, but is not just us. We can do the same for ourselves.
Looking to Technology for Support
Technology that can help includes medical alert devices, automated check-in services and fall detection devices available from LifeStation. With technology serving as a member of your support network, you gain peace of mind that you have systems in place to alert you in case of a medical emergency.
Connect with the Professionals
Don’t forget to count your caree’s doctor as part of your support network! For instance, perhaps you caree recently suffered a decline. When a decline happens, ask your caree’s doctor to order an evaluation for home health benefits through Medicare. While the home health benefit will only provide help on a short-term basis, the extra help from a home health aide, visiting nurse and physical therapist will give you more time during your day.
According to LifeStation’s research, almost 59% of current and future caregivers are concerned about the financial responsibility of having to care for an aging adult. The stress around money can cause sleepless nights and restless days. Peace of mind around the finances comes when you have a realistic picture of all accounts. Look to professionals, such as financial planners, to best manage the budget of your caree’s finances and your own. An app like Carefull can also help you track and manage your caree’s finances.
We can have peace of mind during caregiving – we deserve to have it. We just need to decide we are ready to receive it and take the proper steps to set ourselves up for success.
About the Author
Denise began helping family caregivers in 1990 and currently develops personal development and leadership training programs for them. She began helping her parents in 2004 after her father’s bladder cancer diagnosis.