May 1st, 2019 | BY: Allegra Chaney

Happy Caregivers: How to Find Balance and Happiness

Dear Allegra:

My lifelong best friend is now a full-time caregiver for her 90-year-old mother. While I know she is happy to provide the care her mother needs, I am concerned she is getting exhausted.

My friend has several sisters who live in the area, but none are willing to help or even visit. It has caused my friend to distance herself from her siblings. I think she is just so angry they won’t pitch in to help that she doesn’t want to be around them at all.

Her mother does have the financial resources to hire some support, and I think my friend may be willing to do that. I’d really like to help her get back to being the closest version of her previously happy self as is possible.

What advice do you have for helping caregivers find balance and happiness?

Sincerely,

Lynne

Can Family Caregivers Be Happy Caregivers?

Dear Lynne:

Sounds like you are a great friend, and likewise, your friend is a great daughter. Unfortunately, the situation you described is one we encounter often. One sibling frequently shoulders the duties of caregiving. It can be exhausting both physically and emotionally. The lack of support from other siblings can lead to permanent breaks in family relationships too. Here is some advice I can offer you and your friend.

Talk with your friend. While it sounds like you are a supportive friend, have you ever sat down and shared your concerns? Explain to your friend that you are worried about her well-being. Caregivers often get so caught up in the daily challenges of their role that they fail to realize how much their own health and welfare has declined.

Accept help. When it comes to caregiving for someone we love, many people feel duty bound to do it all on their own. It sometimes takes an unbiased third party to point out that it is okay to accept help. When caregivers take care of themselves, it makes them better able to care for their loved one. You might need to make sure your friend understands this.

Explore senior care options. Even if your friend recognizes its time to enlist some outside help, she might not know where and how to go about doing so. You can do that for her. Start by exploring the home care agencies that serve the area. They can provide in-home professionals to assist with everything from meal preparation to personal care.

Join a support group. Another way to assist your friend is by encouraging her to connect with a family caregiver support group. Being able to share her struggles with peers who are experiencing similar issues can help with everything from stress management to overcoming caregiver guilt. Many caregivers find online support groups to be a solution that best meets their needs and busy schedules.

Stay in touch. When a friend is always preoccupied or unable to join activities you used to do, it can be easy to lose touch. Calling or texting to check in every day might provide her with the listening ear and kind words she needs right now.

Have a girls night out. My final suggestion is to try to schedule a monthly girls night out with your friend. Or even an afternoon outing if that is easier. Help her find a respite caregiver to care for her mother while the two of you enjoy some fun time together. Go see a comedy or another activity that allows you to laugh together and blow off stress.

I hope these suggestions help, Lynne! I’m sending my best wishes to you and your friend.

Kind regards,

Allegra