Care giving out of love
Ellen Cooley, LISW-S
Licensed Independent Social Worker
We come into this world with our parents caring for us. Many of our parents go out of this world with us – now the grown adult child – caring for them. We are now labeled a “care giver.”
With the discovery of many new medications and more longevity, the baby boomer generation has moved into the care giver generation by tending to aging parents. Many care givers have no training and are thrown into this role out of necessity. More than half of all care givers are employed and have many things to balance in their personal lives and in the workplace. Most juggle stressful jobs, children or grandchildren and parents. The emotional and physical stress from all this might be overwhelming, yet many people do it day in and day out.
Care givers can easily lose focus on their own needs when caring for someone else. They might feel overwhelmed, have sleep and appetite problems and might have their own health problems. They might even lose interest in activities and feel sad or become easily irritated or angered while constantly worrying. Some care givers might even turn to alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs to help them deal with their overwhelming stress.
There are ways for the care giver to reduce stress. First is to find out what community resources are available. Some of these resources could include respite care, where someone comes in to provide care or a place where the parent goes to stay for a short time, support groups for care givers, church volunteers and maybe even hospice. It’s important to let others help when they can. Be sure to get all family members involved. A unified effort is usually the most successful intervention possible.
Don’t try to be the “perfect” care giver. Do your best but don’t feel guilty. Break tasks down into little steps and make lists. A daily routine works best. Don’t close out friends, as they can be an enormous emotional support for you. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically and take time away from the situation when necessary. You might need to seek professional counseling at some point, as there are many highs and lows emotionally with care giving and it’s easy to get burned out.
With all the challenges comes the reward of giving something very special back to a loved one who has nurtured and been there all your life. Care giving provides the care giver with a new appreciation of life. Life has now gone full circle, and the care giver has traveled that unending path of love and giving of self.
If you are a struggling care giver of a loved one, and find yourself in need of supportive services, please contact Social Services at 419-526-8640. We can connect you to resources in the community for relief and support.