The Two Sides of Caregiving – Responsibility and Opportunity
Whether you became a caregiver progressively over time or suddenly following a crisis, you are forced to adjust to a new normal. Now in addition to wife, mother, colleague and friend you have also added caregiver to the list of things you are.
You are confronted with a broad range of tasks from navigating the health care system to calling doctors and managing appointments and taking care of your loved one’s day-to-day needs. It can be overwhelming and stressful and at times can require a significant amount of your time and energy. Caregiving for a loved one is a profoundly important role and despite its challenges there can also be a tremendous opportunity to strengthen family bonds.
“The aging experience is associated with many transitions in family relationships,” said Nicole Moore, learning and development coordinator with United Active Living. “Both older parents and their adult children need to renegotiate their relationships and find a healthy balance between autonomy and dependency.”
Evidence shows that the majority of caregivers struggle to deal with the demands of this role. The high levels of stress associated with caregiving can lead to negative consequences like depression, anxiety and worsened health. Opportunities for career advancement may be delayed, more sick days may be requested, or they may feel the need to leave the labour force altogether in order to focus on caregiving. But while the commitment may be time consuming, caregiving opens new opportunities to reconnect with family.
“Caregiving can be challenging but also offers many valuable rewards. It can bring siblings together and further enhance the relationship between the caregiver and recipient,” said Nicole.
“As our parents experience declining health or cognition, their relationships with their families change. This can be a source of stress, but among the challenges there is also opportunity,” said Bridget Coulter, United Minds coordinator. “Often, closer bonds between family members develop, leading to enhanced sense of meaning and an opportunity to give back. These benefits serve as role models of good behaviour for future generations.”
Studies show that more than one-third of an older adult’s caregiving support comes from a family member, usually an adult child. Caregiving can be complicated as some adult children feel they have an obligation to their parents and are unable to offer as much support as they feel they owe or would like to give. At the same time, caregivers wants to ensure their parent receives the best possible quality of care and quality of life.
Living at home with the help of a caregiver and other supports may allow parents to continue to feel independent, but as a caregiver, you will want to ensure that you are informed of other options should home no longer work. It’s best to be prepared for a turn of events.
“If you are considering making a move into a supportive community, start an open dialogue with your parent and other family members. Discuss what quality of life means to the parent. Hear their views on what is important for them. This helps you best decide how to proceed,” said Nicole.
Moving to a United community provides families with a large support network, a wide range of activities and a social community they may have been missing living at home. Your loved one will have access to daily oversight and assistance with housekeeping, meals, medications and personal care in addition to a rich array of engaging programming and creative expression programs.
When a parent moves to a United community, we encourage the continued involvement of caregivers and other family members. “Your caregiving role does not end when your loved one moves in,” said Nicole. “We join you in supporting your loved one; you become part of our team. We welcome your involvement in care and program planning.”
“Our team provides support so that you can focus on your relationship again,” added Bridget.
Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help!