You’re Not Alone: Balancing Your Busy Life While Being a Caregiver

This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own
Did you know more than 40 million people across the U.S. are family caregivers? And that the majority of them are millennials? That means they care for someone outside the normal realm of caring for your family – usually another family member, or someone who is sick, elderly or disabled and unable to look after themselves.
The sad part? Most caregivers don’t even recognize themselves as such – they assume the duties because that’s what family does. They don’t discuss it, or ever ask for help. Being a caregiver on top of your other responsibilities, like your full-time job, your family, housework, bill paying , shopping, etc, can really wreak havoc on your mind, body and soul.
From as young as 9 years old, I remember my Mom taking care of my Grandpa. He had Alzheimer’s disease and could no longer live on his own. My Mom ran a daycare, took care of myself and my sister, managed a household and took care of her Father who pretty much needed 24/7 care. No time for herself (and no complaints about it) she did everything possible to make sure he was well taken care of, and lived out the last years of his life being shown the ultimate act of love -sacrifice. 

I learned about giving selflessly from my Mom. I watched her get up early, and stay up late – and never sit down to relax. Never take time for herself. When I started to help her with her care of my Uncle, I started to really realize how self-sacrificing – and completely on top of things, you really have to be. I am not always the most on top of things. I have a tendency to let my ADHD get a little out of hand. So when you take on another person to take care of – and all of their responsibilities- it can be daunting. There are days where I don’t accomplish much more than a load of laundry and hours on the phone trying to get a Doctor’s appointment, or Medicaid to pay a bill. When you go into work looking like you have been up all night partying, but in fact, have been up all night just trying to catch up on your life at home because you’ve been too busy taking care of someone elses. Let me tell you – my Mom made it look easy. 

With years of experience between the both of us, we have a list of things to help balance taking care of your life – and your loved ones – without getting burnt out or overwhelmed.

Get Organized. There is a lot of things that have to be done with you are managing your life along with someone else’s. Double the grocery list, double the bills that need paid, double the doctor appointments – you get my drift. Be sure to create a calendar with your to do list, and don’t be afraid to let other family members help you! There are some great family sharing online calendar’s that you can give other family access too, so they can help with the chaos of life every once in awhile.

Remember to Take Some Time for Yourself. Though it’s easier said than done, taking some time here and there to just relax, breathe, and not worry about anyone else but your self is important. You can’t take care of others, if you don’t take care of yourself! Hire someone to come and help once a week, or have another family member commit to assisting when you need a break – and make sure you do it! Get a massage, your nails done, take a nap, read a book, whatever helps you relax and decompress.

Talk to Your Employer. If you are the primary caregiver for someone else – without a lot of help – you need to let your boss/manager/HR department know before something comes up. Most companies are a lot more willing to work with you if you confront any issues head on, before the issue arises. Most companies will offer you flexible work schedules, or be willing to work around your care giving schedule. Just make sure they know you are committed to your job, and work is a priority. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Have a Sit Down with Your Spouse/Kids. Being a caregiver to someone else doesn’t just affect your life  – it affects everyone around you. Make sure that you let your spouse and kids know they are still important and a priority, but you are also very much needed by your loved one as well. Be sure to schedule one on one time with them, and even have them come along to help and spend time with the one you are caring for. Trust me, from experience, it will be a good lesson for them.

Take Advantage of Resources Available to You. Being a caregiver isn’t talked about as much as other important times of your life – like having a baby. Everyone and their Uncle can give you tips, tricks, ideas, and information on becoming a parent, but it’s a whole other ball game when it comes to being a caregiver. If you are new to it, sometimes it’s hard to know where to even start and not a whole lot of information out there to help. AARP knows how important – and stressful -this time can be, and that’s why they have developed the Family Caregiver Action Kit.

With information ranging from helpful apps and local networks – to financial tips and more, AARP is helping support the next generation of caregivers, with a community of resources and strategies to help ease into the process of becoming a caregiver.

Do you have helpful advice, or a great resource for family caregiving you think is important? Be sure to share!

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