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The Top 3 Family Caregiver Challenges

Being a caregiver for a loved one is a true labor of love. Juggling caregiver duties with a job, child-rearing, and other obligations can make everyday caregiver challenges feel impossible to manage.

We asked Barry J. Jacobs, a clinical psychologist and family therapist who has also been a family caregiver, what challenges family caregivers face today—and how to manage those challenges. Mr. Jacobs is also the author of “The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent” and a contributor to AARP.

What Are the Top 3 Challenges Faced by Caregivers?

Today’s family caregivers face many challenges—for instance, coping with stress, depression and anxiety; feeling helpless and guilty when they observe but can’t relieve their loved ones’ confusion and suffering; and battling to convince other family members to step up and assist with caregiving tasks.

Based on my experience, these are the top three challenges faced by caregivers of elderly family members:

  1. Family caregivers struggle oftentimes to navigate our fragmented, inefficient and dizzying complex systems of care.
  2. They feel pulled in too many different directions by trying to juggle the responsibilities of work and caregiving. Then, they beat themselves up for not performing their best at any one task.
  3. They sometimes feel too guilty and stubborn to accept help from others.

Why Are These Challenges Today?

Twenty-five years ago, there was little public recognition of the work of family caregivers and few services to support them. Since then, many Americans have been or have known family caregivers. As a result, the number and types of support services have mushroomed. Today’s caregivers can receive resources and emotional support from local Area Agencies on Aging; disease-specific organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association and National Parkinson’s Foundation; local churches, mosques, synagogues, and other community organizations; hundreds of books, websites, Facebook pages, blogs, and apps; health care systems’ and agencies’ social workers and care managers; and, most recently, insurance companies’ care managers.

The problem: None of these helpers are in communication with one another to coordinate their efforts. Like the medical patient who has received multiple and divergent diagnoses from multiple physicians, family caregivers can get buried in conflicting advice and not know whom to trust to provide the right guidance.

More big companies are recognizing that many of their employees are also stressed caregivers. They try to retain these workers by supporting them with paid time off and flexible scheduling. However, these are the exceptions to the rule. Smaller companies still show little sensitivity or understanding toward the needs of their caregiving workers. Nowadays, more caregivers than ever feel torn between taking care of business and taking care of loved ones. Some ultimately quit their jobs at the expense of their own pocketbooks and their employers’ bottom lines.

The greater availability of caregiver support hasn’t made it any easier for some family caregivers to accept services. Many still feel too ashamed or guilty to use home health aides or adult daycare programs, as if doing so is tantamount to shirking their duties and admitting they are weak or unfit relatives.

Tips for Overwhelmed Family Caregivers

To find the right guidance, I suggest three steps:

  1. Make yourself an informed consumer by reading about your loved one’s medical illness or disability on professional organizations’ websites (not Facebook pages) to understand the likely trajectory of the condition and the type of help they will require over time. If your loved one is over 60, go to to find your local Area Agency on Aging and then confer with a care manager there about available support services in your area. Either allow that care manager to guide you or speak with your loved one’s health care provider about the right services.
  2. Let your employer know about your personal situation. Ask specifically about your company’s policies regarding paid and unpaid family leave and flex time. Band together with co-workers who have similar family caregiving responsibilities. Put your employer on notice as a group that supporting you in your family caregiver roles will make you more loyal employees. But also make clear that neglecting to help you balance work and family will undermine your company allegiance.
  3. The most successful family caregivers are resourceful, flexible, and strategic. Accepting help to provide care more effectively is no more shameful than using tools to build a sturdier house. Refusing help is putting pride over practicality. Caregivers will consequently suffer when the caregiving becomes more difficult and they feel burnt out. Their loved ones will suffer more, too.

Accept Help When You Need It

Homewatch CareGivers offers a wide range of home care services to support families that need a hand. For example, our respite care services provide your loved one with the care they need while you take time away for other tasks – like taking care of yourself.

With Homewatch CareGivers, your loved one is in capable hands. Our caregivers complete ongoing training, as well as national background and DMV checks. Plus, we’ve been a home care industry leader for more than four decades.

Getting started is easy. Contact us to schedule your complimentary in-home consultation today!

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