Challenges of Caregiving

April 11, 2018

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash


Caregiving is a very wide-ranging concept, and over the course of our lives the dominant majority of us will either provide care, require care or both. The extent of that care and its specific features will vary enormously, but just being human makes it a more than plausible situation. Much has been said about those who require care – about its types, the psychological toll that it takes on a previously independent person to become reliant on other people, etс.

However, being a caregiver is also a difficult task, and the extent of the efforts required on the part of a caregiver may also be tremendously different. There are different psychological, social and physical aspects of caregiving that need attention, and we will try to touch upon the most important and the most frequently overlooked ones in this article.

There are significant numbers of people who need care at any point in time, for instance, in the United States this number varies between 10 and 12 million people of all ages. This brings the number of family caregivers to approximately 40 million, making these issues poignant for a huge population. With the size of the senior population growing with each passing year, the number of caregivers will likewise increase.

Taking care of a loved one is rewarding and there’s much satisfaction to be found in it, however, the caregiver also requires a support system of some sort to provide the best care and be able to deal with all the challenges it poses. What should you as a caregiver – or as someone who knows a caregiver – know in order to be prepared for the issues that you encountered, may encounter in the future, or just to better understand the predicament of a caregiver.

Caregiving is very expensive

When caregiving becomes a full-time job, there are several options for a caregiver to consider – or, perhaps, a combination of these options may work best. In an average situation, caregiving takes a huge toll on the entire family’s financial situation.

  • Switching to part-time work if that’s financially and professionally feasible
  • Hiring home care agency or private help to perform some of the duties
  • Assisted living facility – if the health issues are not permanent, temporary stays can be arranged for the time required for recovery

Caregiving is physically demanding

It is hard not to notice once you find yourself in a caregiver’s position – it’s plain difficult, and requires you to be in suitable physical shape. Even taking care of a frail older person involves physical actions that not everyone is capable of without potential serious damage to their own health. Various back problems are the most common in caregivers, and general exhaustion is practically a given.

Advocating for your loved one’s dignity, safety and health is complicated
Coordinating the actions of the doctors, nurses, home care assistants, insurance companies, hospitals, and other involved parties is extremely difficult. Moreover, it’s traumatic to observe how the patient is rarely the focus of effort of this complicated system, which does not necessarily promote the decisions that are best for him or her.

Caregivers often become socially invisible

One of the most difficult issues in being a caregiver is the gradual dissolution of the social network, and the lack of both psychological and real-life support from the community. Isolation and lack of recognition and help may become debilitating.

Caregiving requires major management skills in various areas

There are economic and legal issues, health care decisions, psychological challenges that a caregiver faces, and without support from family, friends, community, the health care system and the government, the quality of these decisions decreases. Numerous factors have to be taken into account and analyzed in order to make the best choices for the patient.

How can you help a caregiver?

While the health care and government systems are beyond our reach, what can an individual do in order to help a caregiver? There are simple things that would be much appreciated, including

  • Hands-on help. Defer to the specific requests – it may be something that you would have never thought of, and it will make the world of difference in the situation.
  • Help them make time for themselves. Time is usually the most wanted commodity that you can provide a caregiver. A couple of hours of free time may be a perfect gift.
  • Listening. Advice is not particularly helpful, especially when it was not asked for. On the other hand, providing a tired caregiver with an opportunity to express their feelings is likely to be very much welcome.
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