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Caregivers Want Self Care, Too

Kelly Klein has always felt responsible for her sister, Wendy, who is deaf and has intellectual delays. Klein always helped look after her sister, who often visited her family on weekends. But after the death of her father seven years ago, Klein took on the full-time position and became Wendy’s legal guardian.

Klein assists Wendy in all aspects of her life, including preparing all meals, choosing her clothes, driving to activities and programs, planning and attending all medical appointments, and assisting with personal grooming tasks such as shaving her legs and brushing her hair .

“”[Adjusting] was a challenge at first and we adjusted to the fact that we had suddenly lost our father. Trying to grieve through this process while acclimatizing Wendy into our house, becoming her legal guardian, and doing anything. . . the important pieces that had come together so that she could live with us [was tough]”said Klein.

What are family carers?

At 51, Klein is one of millions of Americans who look after families, helping a family member with a physical, developmental, disability, or terminal illness. Maintenance can include a variety of tasks, e.g. B. Help with everyday activities, administering medication or attending doctor’s appointments.

According to AARP’s 2020 Caregiving in the US report, 89% of all caregivers are relatives. While the age range is wide (77% are between 35 and 75 years old), most are women (61%).

What Makes Family Care So Difficult?

Although family care is often an act of love, it can also take an emotional and financial toll.

Sue Rock, who cared for her husband for seven years before dying of prostate cancer at the age of 66, said it was difficult to see someone you love, experience something that cannot be fixed.

“There is nothing you can do about this journey that they are going through because you are the supportive person and they are going through the health crisis,” said Rock, who is in her mid-50s.

Caregivers can also bear the brunt of the anger and frustration of the family member they care about.

In some cases, “the person who is sick or may need care may be less patient with the family caregiver and more willing to show their frustration with their overall situation than a person who is perceived to be professional becomes.” “stated Ivy Alexander, Ph.D., professor and director of primary care nursing in adult gerontology at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing and a member of the HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council.

Family care can also take an economic toll. The AARP reports that six out of ten American caregivers work full-time in addition to their caregiving duties. Sixty-one percent of them said that care was affecting their ability to work, and one in ten working caregivers had to resign or retire early to focus on care.

COVID-19 and family care

COVID-19 has made everything more difficult, including maintenance, which has created additional stressors.

“The pandemic has made me more cautious about connecting with others and connecting people with my mother,” said Najaa Young, 47, who has been looking after her 74-year-old mother since 2015.

Caregivers may feel uncomfortable leaving the house and / or letting people come in for the necessary breaks. Both of these can make caregivers feel isolated and take on more work.

“In some cases, there are home health care concerns because they have cared for other people in other places. This isn’t real social distancing and isolation,” Alexander said.

Self care and support

Caring for family members can result in caregivers not taking care of themselves. This can lead to burnout, which can lead to major problems. Here are some ways caregivers can practice self-care.

Take your time and ask for help when needed

“Getting away for a night or even a few days is incredibly charged and I think a lot of caregivers struggle to achieve that,” Klein said, adding that the person being cared for may enjoy spending time in and with new surroundings new people.

She credits family members, friends, and neighbors for helping her take care of her sister when she needs some time off.

While she was taking care of her husband, Rock found time to sing at a jazz club on weekly open mic nights.

“You will still have to wait [a semblance of] The life you love and do what brings you life, “said Rock, adding that a few hours with the person you care for doesn’t mean that you are neglecting them.

Accept your feelings

Caring for is difficult, and it’s normal to have moments when you feel angry or overwhelmed. It is important that you allow yourself to have these feelings and understand that they don’t mean that you don’t love the person you care about.

“”[My friends] Let me vent and not judge myself when I say things that are harsh because you know I love my mother and will do anything for her, but that I’m just frustrated, “explained Young.

stay healthy

It is also important to take care of your own health needs by staying up to date with wellness checkups, routine blood tests, and cancer screenings. Alexander also suggests that women eat healthily, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Even with self-care and support, caregivers need additional resources to make their role less stressful. The AARP Local Assistance Directory helps caregivers find local services. Nurses can also qualify to be paid for their care services through Medicaid. Thirteen states, including California, have programs that allow a spouse to receive Medicaid services to take care of their spouse.

Caring is a love job, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The struggles over caring for family members can take a tremendous emotional toll. Women who take care of loved ones need to remember to take care of themselves as much as others.


Family Caregiver Alliance

Caregiver Action Network

AARP family care

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