Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I a caregiver?"
Many people who provide care to others don’t identify themselves as caregivers. Why is that?
Caregivers come from all walks of life—old, young; female, male; rich, poor. Caring for others is a natural part of life, and the prevalence of the family caregiving is stronger than ever.
You can say, “I am a caregiver” if you are:
- The person who drives an elderly neighbour to his doctor appointment.
- The daughter who cooks and cleans her parents’ home.
- The nephew that insists his aunt move in with his family, so that he can help her with her medication and ensure her safety.
- The spouse that bathes and dresses her partner.
- The son who lives hours away from his mom, but calls daily and arranges for her care.
All these people, plus many more, are caregivers.
You might be a caregiver to a spouse, parent, child, family member, friend, or neighbour if you are providing assistance with any part of their daily living.
People often require assistance from a caregiver because of age, medical condition, decline in overall health, injury, illness or disability. Sometimes they will ask you for help, but sometimes it will be up to you to recognize when someone in your life could use your help.
Caregivers come from all walks of life—old, young; female, male; rich, poor. Caring for others is a natural part of life, and the prevalence of the family caregiving is stronger than ever. By 2020, 1 in 3 Canadians will have first-hand experience as a caregiver.
Caregivers can provide varying degrees of care.
One caregiver may choose, or be able to have the person in their care living with them, while another may be a caregiver to someone on the other side of the country. Every caregiving situation presents a unique set of challenges, but the need to support the caregiver is the same.
You may not see yourself as a caregiver, but rather as someone simply taking care of a person who needs you, or fulfilling your responsibilities as a wife, husband, sibling or child. Don’t sell yourself short—see yourself in the role of caregiver and the important work you’re doing for the person you’re caring for, and acknowledge, “I am a caregiver.”
Depending on your situation, becoming a caregiver may not be a straightforward or natural progression.
Sometimes you may feel obliged or pressured into taking on a caregiver role, especially if you think you are the only one available to look after this person. Other aspects of your life may also place undue stress and demands on your role as a caregiver such as your work, your own immediate family, or the fact that the person you are caring for may not be someone you were close with.
Also, fulfilling the role of caregiver may not have been a role you ever thought you would fill.
It’s important to acknowledge all of these thoughts and emotions, and look for ways to get help. Once you identify yourself as a caregiver you will gain a better understanding of your role and this will enable you to seek out the help and support you need.
Taking on the challenges and responsibilities of caregiving is a huge undertaking for anyone and will take some time to adjust to, regardless of where you are at in your life or who you may be.
It is not uncommon to experience new stresses and confusion accompanied by conflicting emotions. Be careful not to ignore your own needs and emotions. New caregivers tend to want to suppress their own needs and feelings as a means of coping but this is not healthy or sustainable, and in the long run your own health may suffer.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help when you need it.
Once you accept that you might be a caregiver, it’s okay to say, “Yes, I am a caregiver, but I need to take care of myself too.” While it’s great to understand the importance of your role and care you are providing, your health and your ability to provide care to the best of your abilities must be a priority.
Find out more about yourself as a caregiver by taking our 5 stages of caregiving quiz.