What It Means to Be a 24/7 Family Caregiver
Caregivers ask what it means to be a 24/7 family caregiver or an aging parent or spouse. There are two types of 24/7 caregivers. One 24/7 family caregiver may live full-time with a loved one and provide care. The second 24/7 family caregiver may be a family member who is on call 24/7 and responds to family caregiving emergencies and requests as they arise. The risks of caregiving burnout and single minded-focus to cope with the stress of caregiving poses care risks for aging loved ones.
Being a 24/7 Family Caregiver Results In Caregiver Burnout
Being a 24/7 family caregiver is one of the most stressful caregiving situations that exist. Family 24/7 caregivers easily experience caregiver burned out and feel isolated from others because of the significant amount of time spent performing caregiving responsibilities.
If you are unfamiliar with the term caregiver burnout, below is a list of common signs:
- Feeling tired, exhausted, and unable to sleep
- Experiencing constant worry or anxiety; the mind constantly works to track long “to do” lists and seems like it never stops, including when you try to sleep
- Feeling hopeless or depressed that the situation will not improve
- Avoiding medical appointments for health concerns that were not present before becoming a caregiver
- Experiencing more days of not feeling well physically or emotionally
- Losing patience, snapping at, and being unkind to the care recipient and others
- Having mood swings, constant ups, and downs, periods of crying
- Difficulty maintaining composure when an unexpected event happens
- Raising the voice or yelling because of feeling frustrated, angry, or agitated
- Feeling like there is never a break from caregiving — no “me” time
- Increasing needs of a family member that takes more time to coordinate
- Family members are unavailable or refusing to help; the entire responsibility falls on the caregiver
- The care recipient is thankless, expects care, and may be demanding
- Constant interruptions: phone calls, text messages, etc.
- Isolation from friends, social activities, and hobbies
- Thoughts of suicide
Coping By Shutting Out The World
Caregivers admit that being a 24/7 family caregiver becomes so stressful that the goal is to cope to get through the day. This single-minded focus is the only way that some caregivers feel that they are able to survive caregiving without falling apart.
While coping also called compartmentalizing helps for a brief period of time, in the long run, this defense mechanism to put feelings on a shelf has negative effects, especially in the care that loved ones receive. Coping and compartmentalizing have the effect of having a closed mind.
Caregiving stress and burnout result in becoming forgetful and having greater difficulty making decisions. Add the idea of coping on top of stress and burnout and the risks increase for the caregiver and care receiver.
At this level of stress of being a 24/7 family caregiver, caregivers feel like there is not enough time in the day. Not enough time to consider anything new. Not enough time to consider that the current situation may be more harmful than beneficial to an aging parent.
Refusals To Getting Help May Result In Harm To Loved Ones
By refusing to accept new information or suggestions about the care of a loved one, the care and well-being of loved ones can experience harm. This results from being so focused to get through the day that caregivers fail to become more informed about resources that could benefit the caregiver, the aging loved one, and the care situation.
Here is a quote from a caregiver about the risks of coping.
“When it is happening, you can’t see the forest for the trees. You just cope. Once it is over you see a million things you could have done better.”
Twenty-four-seven family caregivers experience isolation as a result of the time devoted to caregiving. Those who lived with loved ones rarely get a break to leave the home for activities not related to caregiving. Socializing with friends becomes a thing of the past. Time to go to movies or participate in hobbies also becomes short unless there is a system to have someone come to the home to stay with a loved one.
Working caregivers who are on call experience a similar situation. While they have the opportunity to go to work and interact with others outside of the caregiving situation, time outside of work is devoted to caregiving activities. Evenings and weekends may be devoted to caregiving projects.
Closed Minds Become Hopeless and Helpless
When a closed mind exists, hopelessness and helplessness can take over. Caregivers will say that there is no help but refuse to ask for help. If an action was attempted before, it will not be attempted again for fear of rejection.
The coping response involved in caregiving has the goal of not being hurt again by others. To avoid being hurt, caregivers avoid contact. They avoid trying. These actions to become shielded from the harm of the outer world also have negative effects.
Isolation, loneliness, and depression result. The downward spiral involved with being a 24/7 family caregiver is never-ending unless the reset button can be pushed by the caregiver or by someone the caregiver trusts.
Because the emotional fear of loss and hurt feelings associated with caregiving becomes so overwhelming it is difficult, if not impossible, for caregivers to acknowledge the need for help. Confidence and self-esteem are lost.
Caregivers Want Help But Don’t Want To Take Action
A desire for help is really a desire for change and transformation. A caregiving situation may be at stage A with a desire to move to a better situation at stage Z. Because caregivers become stuck. They have no idea how to move from A to Z to better caregiving situations.
Caregiving support is a solution for all caregivers, especially those who become stuck in negative patterns. Courses that help caregivers assess situations and move toward a less stressful situation have significant benefits.
Love and Meaning
Caregivers have a great capacity for love. Caring for an aging parent or spouse holds meaning and feels like meaningful work – although the daily work of caregiving can be exhausting.
Caregiving is work. Improving a caregiving situation takes work and a willingness to embrace change. Closed minds close the door to possibilities. Open minds open the door to solutions.
If you are a 24/7 caregiver nearing burnout the choice is yours. Transform your caregiving situation by taking Pamela’s online course.