According to The National Alliance for Caregiving, “More than 43 million adults provide care at home for other people…On average, they spend 24 hours a week taking care of their loved one—making it, in truth, an unpaid, part-time job.” (Joy Harrington, 2018).
Caring for someone you love, whether it’s a parent, child, partner, or other family member, can be such a rewarding thing to do. Knowing that you are the one to make another person’s life easier or more comfortable if they are struggling, will most definitely boost your self-confidence and self-esteem.
However, it can also become a strain on a person and or their relationship, especially when the caregiving role has evolved gradually. For example, a person may get a sudden diagnosis of a serious health condition and may need instant support – often without thinking, family members will step up as it’s an instant need. Over time, when people start to slip out of “crisis mode”, they realize how stressed they are feeling or how much they are struggling themselves with this additional responsibility.
“Hi Nicola, I’ve been searching for a Dubai counsellor, and I found your podcast. I have to say it has really touched me as I believe a lot of the issues you cover in your podcast are things I am experiencing in my marriage. I am going through something and wanted to know what you would suggest or advise.
My husband Marcus and I have recently moved closer to his parents’ house as his dad is suffering from Dementia and it is a lot of work for his mum to look after his dad alone. So, we help out daily. On top of several check ins during the day, we also have three young children and Marcus has a full-time job.
As you can imagine it is quite draining on our relationship, but I can also sense the strain it is putting on Marcus. He is trying his best to juggle everything, and I’m worried about him burning out. Anything you can suggest on handling the impact of caregiving on a person and relationships, would be greatly appreciated.” (Courtney).
There are many situations like Courtney’s where there is a gradual shift towards becoming a primary caregiver to an elderly parent because they are not able to do things for themselves. It is hard not to take care of the people who have brought you up, however, it is very important to prioritize things and understand there are extra additional options to ease the load without feeling like you are letting your parents or loved ones down.
If you are a caregiver or know someone who is a caregiver, you may have heard the term “The Sandwich Generation”. This relates to adults who are providing for and looking after their children, as well as looking after their aging parents. This can be perfectly normal for some people, however, if the children are young and demanding, and the elderly parents require a lot of attention and support, it can be so draining and can have a huge impact on the quality of life a person lives.
Today I want to talk about how being a caregiver can affect an individual and can impact their relationships with partners, family and friends. I will also be sharing my tips on how you can reduce the impact on you and your relationships when choosing to be a caregiver.
Even though looking after a loved one can be so rewarding, you can see from what I have shared that it can really impact a person’s life and their relationships with others. I know it can feel like you are trapped if you are the caregiver for your parents and you also have a family to look after or friends to spend time with, so I have some tips to share that will help you or your partner to find the balance between the caregiver role and being present with family and friends.
Respite care is temporary cover for a primary caregiver so this could be other family members or friends that are willing to help as and when needed. If there is no one else close by, there are professional home care companies that provide in house services to ease a caregiver’s load. It could be once a week or if you would like to take a short trip away.
As I explained earlier, it can be easy for a caregiver to lose the love and support of those around them because they begin to prioritize their caregiving duties. It is so important for all caregivers to enlist a trusted loved one to check in on them. Having a person call you regularly gives you the chance to take a mental break from your responsibilities and to maintain connection with others outside of your caregiving role.
If you are the only caregiver in your family and friendship circle, it can be hard to feel supported as they may not fully understand the load on your shoulders. I would highly recommend joining a support group for caregivers as it can be super helpful to share emotions, experiences, and suggestions on how to deal with the responsibilities of caregiving. You can share your difficulties and listen to experiences of others so that you feel less alone.
Whilst making sure your loved one is looked after, it is important to look after yourself too. Make sure you are eating healthily – increase your vegetables, fruits, and water intake so that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to function best. Along with nutrition, it is vital to get a good night’s sleep because a lack of sleep can impact your mood, energy and can increase stress levels.
A great way to ease your stress is to see friends and do things you love. One night a week or once a month, dedicate some time to your friends so you can all spend a carefree night out without feeling guilty. It’s a stress reliever to be with your friends and have a laugh.
This will also give you a chance to share your feelings with people you trust to remind yourself that you are surrounded by people who love you and can build you up when you are feeling drained from being a caregiver.
Looking after someone is an additional responsibility for a caregiver, which means other people start to fall lower down in the list of priorities. This can have a negative effect on romantic relationships.
When doing a weekly plan, set time out for a date night – this can be a romantic night in or going out doing something you both love. Whatever you decide, make sure you are spending quality time together. This is so important because I often see couples struggling to maintain a connection with one another when there is a caregiving responsibility, as romance is often the put on the backburner.
Instead of separating the two roles – caregiving and being a parent/partner, you can set aside days where you can all do activities together, including the person you are caring for. You can all watch a movie together, cook together, read stories to one another etc. There is so much you can explore, and this makes the connection between loved ones much stronger.
To end, I want to highlight the importance of working together towards a common goal. As couples, family members or friends, we must strive to be loving, kind and compassionate to one another.
When a person feels loved and supported, they are more likely to cope better with difficulties in life and being a caregiver is an incredibly tough job to take on. This also means if you are the caregiver, you need to make a conscious effort to create healthy boundaries and enlist the help of others if you notice it is negatively impacting your relationship with friends and family.
If you or your partner are a primary caregiver for loved ones and you notice the impact it has on personal and professional relationships, and would like to find out more about my couples program that focuses on
Becoming closer, rebuilding the connection through loving actions
Clearing negativity and resentment so the way you think supports the relationship you want to have
Communication principles to be able to work through stressful times
Do also join the Facebook group relationship advice and wellness tips with Nicola Beer – I’d love to connect with you in there 😊