Every caregiving situation is unique, bringing a variety of challenges and stress as well as joy and satisfaction. It is important to be alert for problems that could occur. Some issues may be solved ahead of time by foreknowledge and planning. Some of the challenges that may be faced are:
The long arc of extended caregiving often feels bleak. Many caregivers experience economic, emotional, professional and physical strain, and often, spiritual crisis. The acknowledgement of such feelings is the beginning of acceptance of the caregiving situation.
Sadness and Loss
For many, the caregiving experience can be devastating. When one watches a mother, father, spouse, partner, sibling, or friend decline, you lose a little bit more of them each day which is an emotionally exhausting process. One feels overwhelmed by responsibilities, a sense of personal isolation, sadness and loss. It is very hard, in the day to day management of illness, to preserve the feeling of hope and connection that binds you to your ill family member. It is also difficult to stay lovingly in the moment when there are meals to prepare, chores to do and adult diapers that need changing. The challenge is obvious: finding a way to manage sad, even angry, feelings and discovering some joy in the journey that so often defines late chapters of family life. Try to forgive yourself for the times you may feel irritable, angry or impatient with your failing loved one or those around you. Every day is a new opportunity to ask forgiveness, to move beyond what has gone before, to connect or re-connect in a meaningful way.
When an aging parent needs emergency medical care or care planning, many well intentioned family members may want to lead. In the end, though, it often falls to one particular family member, the designated caregiver, to assemble a care team and follow through on a day to day basis. Few experiences revive the past like care planning for an aging parent. Grown siblings may find themselves arguing in ways recalled from childhood. Accusations abound. It can be very difficult to manage the disagreements and disputes that arise among siblings with long memories and long-simmering issues. It is important to try to build on old family relationships and forge present day partnerships with grown siblings and in-laws. Assemble the best possible Caregiving Circle to help with problems that may emerge as time passes. Encourage and permit a role for as many family members who genuinely want to contribute. Determine what is realistic for each family member to do based on geography, their resources, means and ability to contribute. Successful caregiving that does not exhaust or deplete the primary provider is best served by putting family baggage aside to collaborate whenever possible. Cooperation between family members who care for a loved one can make a significant difference.
Support from Your Spouse or Partner
The support of a spouse or life partner is crucial to a family caregiver. They should, ideally, be consulted and included whenever care planning begins. Assume nothing, leave nothing to chance. Discuss your caregiving challenges openly. Secure your partner’s agreement to stand in support of your aging family member(s) and engage them as full partners. Talk to your partner and review your real options for assisting loved ones financially or by extending a place to live. Support and understanding from your spouse or partner can help you balance the enormous demands so common to sandwich generation caregivers
The following sections may assist you: