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Am I A Caregiver?

Am I A Caregiver?

Am I a caregiver is not likely a question most of us are asking about ourselves. By defining what a caregiver is, most of us will understand that what we’ve been doing qualifies as caregiving. Is it even essential to label ourselves in such a way?

Answering that question is personal, but there are good reasons to understand if your relationship is that of a caregiver. There are many more resources for someone who is a caregiver versus someone whose loved one has Alzheimer’s.

Take my situation as an example. After the death of my father, I attended a grief support group. One session made it clear that this addressed only a part of my challenges. Of course, I was sad that my Dad had died and I needed to discuss that with others. On the other hand, I had mixed emotions about the role change with my Mom.

When I looked online for a support group for people who had family members with Alzheimer’s, I discovered that they were for “Alzheimer’s caregivers.” I didn’t consider myself a caregiver because we had moved Mom to a memory care residence.

At my first meeting, the facilitator defined what a caregiver relationship looked like. If you have any responsibility for the well being of someone with Alzheimer’s, you’re a caregiver. Putting it another way, I “qualified” as a caregiver because I had a Mom with the disease, and I did things with her and for her.

What Is A Caregiver?

Some questions to ask yourself; do I help a senior with finances, chores, or drive them to appointments? Do I have an elder who calls me regularly with questions or problems? Have you ever changed vacation plans, adjusted work hours, or taken family leave to ensure a senior is cared for properly? Have you ever woke up worrying about the needs of a senior?

There are more questions; have you ever made phone calls on behalf of someone to ask a question about a bill? Have you ever had to help them clear up confusion about a product or service? Lastly, have you neglected your own family, hobbies, or social life because you’ve been “helping” someone else?

There are more questions; have you ever made phone calls on behalf of someone to ask a question about a bill? Have you ever had to help them clear up confusion about a product or service? Lastly, have you neglected your own family, hobbies, or social life because you’ve been “helping” someone else?

These are the most common and apparent ways people are caregivers, but there are more. At some point, all of us provide some caregiving at some point in our lives.

Okay, I’m a Caregiver – Now What?

Understanding that providing care for anyone for any length of time has its challenges and stresses. Identifying yourself as a caregiver will make it easier to realize that you need to take steps to care for yourself.

Learning how to care for someone with a disease as devastating as Alzheimer’s is one step in your journey. The more you understand the progress of the disease, the better you can plan for the future. Understanding your role as a caregiver will enable you to seek help, respite care, and other services.

One place to start is with the Alzheimer’s Association. They have classes, support groups, and a fantastic 24/7 hotline. You’re on this website with more than 130 (and counting) podcast episodes on every topic related to caregiving.

Many people I have talked to have found that the more they learn, the better prepared they feel. Some folks have repeated specific classes (like The Savvy Caregiver) because they learn new things each time. No one has ever told me they wished they knew less. Nearly every caregiver I encounter wishes they’d learned more, sooner.

Caregiving Doesn’t Last Forever

It may feel like it, and you will likely wonder if there will be anything new. There is life after caregiving, I am proof. I thought I was more than ready for Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey to end, but I was not.

Fortunately for me, I had my “after” already in place. I had started thinking more about how the podcast would change once I was a “former” caregiver. I didn’t have as much time to think about that as I would have preferred. Like me, you will find yourself a former caregiver. You may find that hard to picture right now, but I assure you, it will happen.

Allowing yourself to think about the next phase is part of caring for yourself.  If you had to stop working or dramatically alter your life to be a caregiver, let yourself think about what comes next. You don’t need to make decisions. I’d even suggest that you not attempt to plan out the next phase. Imagine your life in the next chapter. How do you want it to look? What do you want to do? Are there things you will need to do like return to the work world?

Having an idea of how your life will change for better and worse will help you chart a path forward. Being a caregiver does not mean that you put your life on hold forever. Understanding what your needs are will help you become the best caregiver possible.

The biggest challenge will be learning how to balance caring for two people with very different needs. You can do it!


Related Episodes:

Visiting With Mom (Jen’s Journey)


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Fading Memories was created to support family caregivers in a simple, on-demand form. When I was looking for advice on caring for my Mom, I needed this podcast. Since it didn’t exist, I created what I needed!
Jen – pod host

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