Many of us experience life as caregivers at one time or another.

Whether we must attend to our younger siblings at an early age, provide for our own children, our partners, neighbors, parents, family members or patients—we find ourselves in the position of taking care of another person.

Older adult with walker

Caregiver Role

Our role as caregiver may require us to step into the role amidst a crisis or emergency, or if we’re fortunate, we get the opportunity to plan ahead and prepare ourselves for our new role over the course of time. Our role as caregiver always coincides with our other roles in life such as that of parent, partner, daughter/son, neighbor, friend, community member, caregiver and (insert profession here). Take precautions so that this does not lead to high anxiety and reduced self-care. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, exercise and do what you need to do in order to take care of yourself so that you can care for your loved one.

Caregiving Requires Us to be Experts at Many Things

In addition to taking on the personas of many different roles, we as caregivers of aging loved ones, assume the responsibilities of chef, nurse, medication manager, physician, maid, taxi driver, financial adviser, lawyer, organizer, mover, accountant, real estate agent or companion to those for whom we care. We do this out of love and concern. It forces us to quickly become experts in each of these areas, which may not always jive with our already-busy schedules. Juggling multiple roles demands a lot from us, to say the least. Reading up on and detaching ourselves a little bit about each of the above-mentioned roles and associated issues before a crisis hits, can go a long way in ensuring your aging loved one is cared for as best as possible without sending you into panic mode.

Resources for Caregivers

The good news is resources abound in each of these domains of caring. Connecting with VistaLynk and enrolling in one of our caregiving courses or eldercare workshops will better prepare you as a caregiver of an older loved one. VistaLynk learning opportunities provide expertise and support that allow participants to rest a little easier knowing their loved one has what he or she needs to thrive.

Each November, I feel thankful not only because it is the season of Thanksgiving and I have an abundance for which to be grateful but because it’s National Family Caregivers Month—a time to recognize and be thankful for selfless family members who provide care for those they love. Inevitably, I am reminded of all the days I spent caring for my own mother as she aged and eventually faded from this life.

Her dying and my caregiving is a bittersweet memory for me. It was mentally and physically challenging–to a far greater extent than I had anticipated. However, it was also a time when I felt close to her, learned from her, felt needed by her and inspired by her will to live and love me.

Like my mother, older adults often rely on their families for support. However, the role of families’ responsibilities in the care of their loved ones is complex. The family structure has changed over the last several decades. Older adults have fewer children to rely on for care in later years. Families are spread out geographically making hands-on care more difficult. The economic downturn in the last decade has depleted some people’s resources for financial supporting of aging loved ones. Many caregivers put their own fiscal well-being in jeopardy by assuming the financial responsibility of others, not to mention the toll caregiving takes on emotional and physical well-being due to ongoing intensive caregiving responsibilities.

The responsibility of caregiving has become one of the most import issues for many societies to address in the 21st century. While it is true that individuals are living longer, they are often living with chronic conditions that require some level of assistance. However, caring for a family member can be demanding and often competes with other responsibilities, such as caring for children or a job.

Let us each take time to celebrate and acknowledge those who provide care for family members. Aging demands a complex network of support with every twist and turn along the way. My experience with my mother has taught me the vital need for every human being to feel connected– connected to their histories, their communities and their families. Family caregivers are making this happen for many elders. For this, they deserve many thanks!