Being a caregiver is a physically and emotionally strenuous position. Caring for a loved one as their health declines is a challenging task, but one that many people feel grateful to be able to provide. Unfortunately, for many families, there will come a point where the loved one will need more care than what their family can offer. This is when many are forced to make the switch from at-home care to an assisted living facility. Caregivers can often feel many conflicting emotions at this point, so finding a way to overcome their feelings and live life for themselves again can be difficult.
Filling the Time
Many caregivers spend numerous hours a week providing care. This often means they have given up their careers, distanced themselves from friends and forgotten about their hobbies. Suddenly, they are left with free time and no idea how to spend it. Many will benefit from finding employment, even if it is just part time. This makes them feel useful again and exposes them to new people. Joining clubs and reconnecting with friends and family are also important. However, since most will have neglected their own needs while acting as a caregiver, this is also a good time for them to take it easy and take stock of their health.
Dealing With Emotions
There are many emotions that are common to people who provide care to someone who is ill or aging. These people can feel disconnected to the world, relieved to finally be free and guilty for feeling any relief. They may be lonely, depressed or even empty feeling because of no longer being needed. Some of the feelings may seem irrational, but all are normal. To realize how normal they are, they should join a support group and talk to others with the same experiences. There are in-person groups and online meetings that can make it easy for people to meet others who understand their emotions. Check with hospitals and senior support agencies for local groups, or visit the website for The Family Caregiver Alliance. They connect people from all over the country who are in need of a little emotional support.
Building New Tradition
The loved one may be living at an assisted senior living facility, but that does not mean they no longer need the love and care of their friends and family. Starting new routines and traditions with them is a wonderful way for caregivers to feel better, and help their family member at the same time. They can reserve a day each week to have lunch together or go shopping. If possible, they could take them to their medical appointments. This will make it easier to stay informed of their medical needs while also giving them the personal attention they need. Caregivers may even be welcomed to volunteer at the facility to teach an art class, or help to supervise outings.
Nearly 30 percent of the American population provides some level of assistance to a family member. Most of these people are also working, caring for children and taking care of their own home. It may seem as if these people would be so overburdened by the task of providing care that it would be a welcome relief to have some freedom, but this is not the case for many. It is important for former caregivers to realize that they are not alone in how they feel, and support and understanding is available.