Signs You Need a Hand: When Caregivers Need Help
Although a rewarding experience, caregiving can take a toll on caregivers. There are an estimated 53 million caregivers in the United States, according to AARP's “Caregiving in the U.S.” 2020 report. Up to 70% of the respondents indicated feeling stress and strain, both of which can have a significant impact on caregiver health.
Despite the challenges of caring for aging parents, many caregivers refuse help when it's offered or they don't seek it out when they need it. The importance of caregivers caring for themselves can't be understated, which is why caregiver support and recognizing the need for relief are both vital to keeping caregivers healthier. In turn, this empowers them to be better caregivers.
Signs a Caregiver Is Struggling
The demands can leave caregivers feeling overburdened and overwhelmed. Over time the stress can have a detrimental effect on the health and emotional well-being of the caregiver. It can also be hard on relationships, including the one between the caregiver and care recipient. Signs it might be time to get some additional help include:
- Feeling constant worry
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Sleeping difficulties
- Feeling frequent fatigue
- Having a short fuse
- Losing interest in enjoyable activities
- Overeating or drinking more than usual
Why Caregivers Sometimes Refuse Help Offers
For some caregivers, it's easier to deny help when it's offered than to accept it. There are a variety of reasons that can leave people reluctant to seek or say yes to getting some assistance, including:
- Guilt: Caregiver guilt is common, driving many caregivers to feel they should be able to handle all the responsibilities of caring for their loved one on their own. This motivates some to turn away from caregiver support or seeking out respite care.
- Subconscious competition: Caregivers with siblings sometimes fall back into sibling rivalry, each wanting to somehow outshine the others by doing more for the care recipient. This can leave others feeling shut out while leaving the caregiver without the much-needed support he or she could have otherwise.
- Financial concerns: Aging parents might be on a fixed income, or the family as a whole might be worried about the financial challenges of getting outside help from long-term care professionals.
- Wanting privacy: Aging parents often view their homes as their havens. Likewise, their care and condition is often of a deeply personal nature. That can leave both the care recipient and the caregiver reluctant to bring others into the mix.
Tips for Accepting Help
If you're among those caregivers who struggle with accepting help when it's offered, think about how good it makes you feel to help your loved one. Now, consider the person offering to give you a hand might feel just as fulfilled and rewarded in taking a part in the care of not only your aging parents but you. Other ways of overcoming reluctance include:
- Practice self-compassion: A study from “Mindfulness” revealed that being kind toward yourself can improve your feelings about a situation. This could help with feelings of stress and caregiver guilt. It can also help you feel more comfortable reaching out to get the support you need.
- Check in with your peers: No one can offer caregiver support quite like someone who is going through it. Joining a caregiver support group can help you tap into available resources while giving yourself an outlet and the chance to connect with people going through similar situations.
- Accept the situation: You can't be everything to everyone. At the same time, not every person in your family or friend group will be able to show up exactly as you want or need them. When you accept what's happening in the present, it makes it easier to look for help from reliable sources.
Whether you need help or you're trying to better balance your caregiving duties with the rest of your life to avoid stress and burnout, there are resources available. These resources can lift a bit of the burden off your shoulders while supporting your aging parents' needs. A few to consider include:
- Support groups, either condition-specific or general
- Family, friends, and neighbors
- Community centers, senior centers, adult daycare
- Ride-share programs, transportation assistance
- Nutrition programs or meal delivery services
- Apps like Caregivify, which can create reminders and shopping lists as well as connect you to content designed for caregivers