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Caregiving – How This Can Take a Toll On You As An Individual And On Relationships

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.

 

As a marriage counsellor in Dubai and online I regularly receive messages like this –

 

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.

 

 

 

How being a caregiver can affect you as an individual –

 

  • Constantly feeling anxious about your loved one’s health
  • Feeling lethargic and having no passion or enthusiasm for other activities
  • Struggling to get a good night’s sleep because you’re in a constant state of worry
  • Developing unhealthy coping habits like drinking or smoking to numb the pain or fatigue
  • Neglecting your other responsibilities because you simply don’t have enough time in a day
  • Having no time for your own selfcare because you are prioritizing others
  • Feeling irritated and getting agitated easily due to lack of sleep and fatigue
  • Getting annoyed with the person you are caring for even though you are not angry with them, you are annoyed at the situation and the responsibility it puts on you
  • Feeling stuck because you want everyone to be happy, but you don’t know how to physically give equal amounts of time to the person you need to care for and your family or friends
  • Struggling financially as you are providing for the person/people you are the primary caregiver for, as well as your own family

 

 

How being a caregiver can affect your relationship with friends and family members –

How being a caregiver can affect your relationship with friends and family members –

  • Having limited or zero social life as you have no time to enjoy yourself
  • Gradually lose friends as you decline invites out, so they stop inviting you
  • Losing contact with those around you means a limited support system for you
  • Missing out on your children’s key milestone events like parent’s evenings or school performances because you must prioritize your caregiving role otherwise you feel guilty
  • Your children begin to adapt to you not being there for them and so they become closer to your partner, leaving you feeling guilty and unloved
  • Having less time to spend with family or friends for special occasions like birthdays, which can make others feel like you don’t care for them

 

 

 

How being a caregiver can affect your romantic relationships –

  • If one partner is looking after his/her parents they may feel stressed if they do not have the right emotional or physical support. Whereas the other partner may feel stressed because they are carrying the burden of running the household and family alone while their husband or wife looks after their parents.
  • Less time as a couple means limited romance – no time for date nights, no time to work on maintaining a deep connection to one another. This can push a couple further apart.
  • If someone is the caregiver for their partner, this can also put a strain on the relationship because the caregiver has the responsibility to look after all needs for their partner and may not be able to get their needs met for a variety of reasons. This can make a person feel less like a romantic partner and more like professional help or a roommate.
  • Emotions and tensions can build and cause arguments which are often left unresolved because caregiving duties take priority and there is less time to work on your relationship.
  • If both partners aren’t in agreement on how much a person does for his/her parents, this can cause friction in a relationship. The caregiver may feel alone and unsupported, whereas the other partner may feel like his/her needs aren’t important and this can cause a buildup of resentment on both sides.
  • The relationship or marriage may become long-distance, right now I am supporting a lady to save her marriage and get into the right actions for her husband not to leave. Her father caught covid and was in ICU for 9 months and she left her husband to be with her Dad and family. The husband started reflecting negatively on the relationship, feeling neglected both before the father got sick and during the past 9 months. He has a more traditional view of marriage than her, he believes that very little sex for three years means his wife is not caring for him. Their sex life and communication was dwindling before her father got sick and was non-existent when she left. She had no idea he was feeling so hurt, unloved and disappointed until he said he no longer wanted to be married any more. Now they are working it through. It’s so so important to communicate your frustrations in the day, week or month they happen rather than let them bottle up.

 

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.

 

 

How to reduce the impact of caregiving on you as an individual and your relationships –

  • Look into respite care –

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.

 

  • Check in regularly with a trusted loved one –

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.

 

  • Find a caregiver’s support group –

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.

 

  • Don’t neglect your own wellbeing –

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.

 

  • Make a conscious effort to maintain friendships –

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.

 

  • Make time for your romantic relationship –

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.

 

  • Create Family Fun Days –

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

And aligning your goals dreams and future, do check out my website www.nicolabeer.com for more details or email me at nb@nicolabeer.com and I can send you some more information.

 

Do also join the Facebook group relationship advice and wellness tips with Nicola Beer – I’d love to connect with you in there 😊

 

REFERENCES

https://thewell.northwell.edu/caregiving/caring-others-takes-its-toll

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