Family Caregiving: The Ultimate Juggling Act

Grandfather and grandson Max, a 16-year-old high-school student from Fairfax County, knows the great responsibility of being a family caregiver. Max currently cares for his grandfather who has dementia, while maintaining straight A’s and being a top youth bowler. Though stressed at times, he has no regrets about lending a hand and helping his family.

Max’s grandfather wasn’t diagnosed with dementia long ago, but his memory loss has progressed pretty quickly. He now needs assistance with several activities of daily living, including dressing and transferring. Although he never had any physical difficulties in the past, Max’s grandfather recently started falling. At 6’1, young, and healthy, Max is able to pick his grandfather up when he falls with ease. Max started taking a cooking class, and now helps out with meals too. Max hopes to work in the medical field and this experience has confirmed his decision to do so.

Luckily, Max is not alone in his caregiving endeavors. Other family members and a professional caregiver also help, but cannot come as often as needed. Good caregivers are hard to find, and the professional health aide has multiple clients who need her help. Virtual learning has been a perfect opportunity for Max to pitch in and lend a hand. The downside is that Max needs to stay home and be extra vigilant, so he won’t get COVID-19 and spread it to his grandparents. Juggling caregiving, school, and activities is challenging for anyone, but to him and to many other caregivers, it’s certainly worth it.

Family Caregivers Come in All Ages, Genders, and Walks of Life

As you can see from my example, family caregivers can come in all ages, genders, and walks of life. On average, one in five working Americans provide care for an aging, ill, or disabled loved one. And, over a million American young people, aged eight to 18, care for an adult relative on a daily basis!

During the current health crisis, the number of caregivers needed will inevitably increase. Similar to Max, family caregivers of all ages worry about reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure to themselves and their family and friends.

Celebrating National Family Caregiver Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month and this year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” This November, we remember the people who lovingly give baths, clean houses, shop for, and comfort the millions of seniors and ill people friends and loved ones – who need this type of care.  

Here are some facts that the National Alliance for Caregiving has about family caregivers today:

Majority of caregivers are women: Over half of family caregivers are women.
Relationships may suffer: One of out of every four caregivers reports diminished family relationships because of caregiving for a loved one.
No wonder you’re tired: Most caregivers work outside the home either part-time or full-time, in addition to their caregiving responsibilities.
Children do it too: As mentioned, over a million American young people, under age 18, care for an adult relative on a daily basis.
It’s hard to make time for self-care: Nearly 70% of caregivers report they don’t see their doctor regularly because of their caregiving responsibilities.

How to Stay Sane and Healthy While Caring for Someone Else

Max’s experience in being a caregiver who is juggling many of life’s responsibilities and making things work is essential to telling the story of the challenges faced by millions of other caregivers in our area and in the U.S.

One thing that all caregivers must remember is that if you’re responsible for taking care of a loved one, making sure your own needs are met is of the utmost importance. After all, it’s hard to care for someone else when you’re not feeling your best. Here are some tips that may be able to help you manage your stress more effectively:

Make time for yourself: Caregivers are faced with an almost endless list of things to do. Communicating with doctors, providing transportation, and taking care of their own households can seem to absorb all the time in their days. This is why it’s critical to set aside time for yourself when you’re a primary caregiver for someone else. Whether it’s meditating, practicing yoga, or just going for a walk, it’s important to take time for self-care before caring for your loved one.
Accept help: Accepting help can be one of the most difficult things to do when you feel weighed down by responsibility. Because of the sheer number of tasks to accomplish on any given day, it can often feel hard to let others help. But if someone offers to take over some of your responsibilities, let them. Try having a list ready of items that can be managed by someone other than yourself.
Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one. Technology can help you care for a senior loved one at home, by making your home safer and more efficient and providing tools to make your daily tasks easier.
Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find. Developing your own system for organizing medical information, or creating a personal health record, will help you stay on top of doctor’s visits, medications, and insurance claims. Read this article for some helpful tips.
Make sure legal documents are in order. Be sure to plan for yourself and your loved one!
Take naps: One of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is to fit naps into your weekly schedule. Round-the-clock caregiving is never easy. But when your loved one takes a break, don’t do another task — you take a break too. It’s important not to wear yourself down!
Check yourself for depression: Watching a parent age or seeing someone change drastically due to illness can be devastating. Take some time to monitor your own wellbeing. If you are not sleeping well, exercising, or feel yourself becoming reclusive, speak to a professional about depression. It can hit anyone at any time. There’s no shame in feeling overwhelmed.
Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!

Being a caregiver is one of the most difficult roles you can take on. If you’re having trouble keeping up with your list of responsibilities, know that you’re not alone. By setting boundaries and becoming aware of the tools that can make your job easier, you can effectively manage the stress you may be feeling and be at your best to care for your loved one.

Are You a Family Caregiver?

If you are a caregiver for a loved one, as mentioned in the tips above, it is wise to plan in advance. Nursing homes in the DC Metro area cost $12,000-$14,000 a month, which can be catastrophic for most families. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please call us today to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Elder Care Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.