During 2020, more than 65 million American women provided unpaid care for their children, family members and elderly relatives.1 It’s easy to imagine that many of them likely juggled caring for a combination of these types of dependents. If you’ve ever provided ongoing caregiving duties for a parent, partner, child, sibling or someone else, you may recognize common feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted, out of your depth and even somewhat resentful — and then feeling guilty.
Everyone has different circumstances, but when the caregiving begins to interfere with your mental, physical and/or financial health, you should re-evaluate how you might be able to manage better. In most cases, it is possible to get help if you’re willing to ask.
We can help by becoming your partner for long-term financial planning with insurance products — for both your caregiving charge and your own finances. Please give us a call if you’d like to learn more. In the meantime, the following are some tips to help you balance the burdens of caregiving with the rest of your life.
Establish a Team
You may already have a network of people in your life who can help. They may not initially offer because they believe you have everything under control or because they don’t realize you could use some help, or they don’t want to share that burden. Regardless, you should choose people you know have the capability and ask each person to take on at least one aspect of your tasks. This may include helping with medical issues, legal issues, caregiving supervision/scheduling and financial management.
Help Everyone Become More Independent
Caregiving may become overwhelming because it can feel like too many people in your life are depending on you. It’s important to encourage independence among friends and family so that you don’t become overwrought. You can start with your caregiver charge, by not getting into the habit of doing things that he can do for himself.2
That approach should also work for your family. Explain that you will always be there for them, but not to do everything for them. In time, even small children can learn to fix a bowl of cereal and your teenagers can find their own cleats/ballet bag/homework somewhere in the house — or at least look first before asking for help. Likewise, husbands and wives can work on better interdependence by establishing healthy boundaries, actively listening to each other, making time for personal interests, and taking personal responsibility for their own behavior.3
Schedule Regular Time for Yourself
Regular exercise is important, as well as attending routine check-ups for your health so you have the stamina to juggle your life and caregiving duties.4 Pursue goals or activities you want to try, such as yoga, golf lessons or learning to play a musical instrument. Join a gym or book club or regularly meet up with friends — even when you feel tired — because it will likely energize you. Look for opportunities to laugh often. Spend time by yourself and with people you like. Whatever your passions, don’t lose sight of them. You must do the things you love to nourish your soul and replenish your strength to handle all of life’s responsibilities.
It’s like being on an airplane and putting on your oxygen mask before you help someone else. Doing one small thing for yourself can make you more able and responsive to others.
Get Help When Needed
The stress and even depression associated with caregiving is real, debilitating and highly prevalent throughout today’s society. When you need help, do not hesitate to speak with a mental health professional who can help guide you through your feelings and develop coping strategies. Consider resources you can rely on for when you absolutely need a break, be it another family member, caregiver service or adult daycare center.5
Commune With Other Caregivers
Consider joining a caregiver support group to help recognize that you are not the only one with these burdens. In fact, you have likely developed skills and knowledge that can be very helpful to other caregivers in the same situation. And, when you share your experiences, you may find others who can offer knowledge and resources that help you in turn.