Caring for an ailing or aged friend or family member is undoubtedly a rewarding and joyful experience. However, family caregivers come across a myriad of challenges during their caregiving journey. These challenges often overwhelm the caregivers, leaving them anxious, stressed, and even intimidated by their responsibilities.
No matter if your care recipient is suffering from a permanent or temporary physical or mental illness, you’ve got to be ready to cope with the difficulties that might come to you as a caregiver. You might already be familiar with some of the challenges and the factors that contribute to this facet of caregiving. But certain challenges pop up unexpectedly, leaving you overburdened. Being aware of these hardships beforehand and preparing to deal with them can save you from physical, mental, and emotional pressure.
The unexpected challenges of family caregiving
Here’re the most unexpected challenges that you may face as a family caregiver:
If you have assumed the role of a family caregiver, then you have to be prepared for the physical exhaustion that might come along, especially when the care recipient is entirely dependent on you. You have to risk your health by helping your loved one with many physical activities, such as moving around, feeding, bathing, and using the toilet. What if you end up injuring yourself while helping the dependent person? Caregiving is not a one-off job. It is an ongoing journey that may involve physically demanding activities consistently. Most caregivers experience exhaustion and health problems when they assume caregiving as a full-time responsibility.
Many caregivers reduce their paid work hours or quit their jobs entirely to care for a loved one. As such, they lose money. They may even be left with decreased retirement benefits, including Social Security. To make matters worse, the person you’re caring for may not have enough money to support themselves. This can compel you to incur hefty overhead expenses to pay for the care recipient’s medical and living expenses. Moreover, getting financial assistance from external sources can be costly and hard to arrange.
Healthcare system constraints
Caregivers can come across obstructions in the healthcare system that can make it hard to get the assistance their loved one needs. The healthcare system involves different constraints, such as bureaucratic and budgetary restrictions. As a result, you will have to arrange proper healthcare for the person you’re looking after, besides working and coordinating with multiple bureaucratic layers within the healthcare system. This can be more stressful and difficult to manage along with providing day-to-day care to your loved one.
Caregiving without training
Most family caregivers help their loved ones out of love and compassion but without any training. The dearth of training makes caregiving more challenging because the care recipients might contract infections, experience physical injury, or suffer from dehydration or malnourishment. The caregivers depend on their knowledge and pieces of equipment to perform essential medical tasks without any formal training. On top of that, the associated legal responsibilities can cause anxiety and stress.
Loneliness and isolation
While caregiving itself is a huge and difficult responsibility, the unavailability of support from other family members, friends, and the community can make it even more challenging. As a caregiver, you may feel isolated, lonely, and distressed at times. These feelings can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion and even caregiver burnout. You wish your family, friends, and peers to recognize and validate your hard work. But when it looks like your efforts go unnoticed, you may feel lonely and helpless.
These unexpected challenges of family caregiving are serious and, if not handled on time, can lead to physical and mental health problems. It is a good idea to seek support, to cope with these hardships or to avoid them. If you don’t get the assistance you need, you may quickly burn out, which can affect your health and ability to provide proper care.
Remember that even if you’re a primary caregiver, you can’t do everything without support. Arranging respite care can help you take a break and focus on your health for some time. But discussing the problems with your family members, friends, health professionals, and support groups can be a huge relief in the long-run.