49-years-old. Female. Providing 24 hours of care a week. Performing medical and nursing tasks on a consistent basis. These characteristics describe the typical family caregiver according to a recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, but this depiction leaves out a very impactful yet often overlooked aspect of this profession: how caregiving affects your relationships.
When providing care for a loved one, it can unfortunately become very easy to not have enough time to spend with your other loved ones, such as your spouse, children, siblings and friends, which can lead to strains on your relationships.
Causes of Strain
It’s a common phrase that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but if you spend much of your time caring for a loved one, this could put a strain on your other relationships. Here are some of the ways in which caregiving could affect your relationships:
- Financial burden. According to the Pew Research Center, one out of every seven middle-aged adults is supporting both their parent and a child financially, causing 30 percent of these adults to barely have enough finances for their own basic living expenses.
- Crunched for time. It can oftentimes seem like we’re all just running from one thing to the next, and this feeling of not having enough time to get everything done can be very common among caregivers. Not only does this feeling add stress, but it can also impact your ability to take care of various family matters, such as housework and child care.
- Extreme fatigue and frustration. A common side effect of stress is extreme fatigue a buildup of frustration, which is understandable – after all, we’re all human. However, fatigue and frustration become problematic when they cause a small disagreement to turn into an argument.
- Tension among other loved ones. It is not uncommon for caregiving responsibilities to be shared among siblings or other family members. While this is a great way to distribute the various responsibilities, it can also create some tension in your family.
How To Cope
Despite the fact that caregiving may make it more difficult to spend time with your other loved ones, it certainly doesn’t mean that caring for your loved one is no longer meaningful. On the contrary, this could be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your spouse, family members and friends.
Being aware of how caregiving affects your relationships can help you take the following steps to cope with this strain:
- Set aside time to talk. One of the reasons disagreements may occur is because your spouse, family members or friends may not fully understand or realize the extent of your responsibilities as a caregiver. Be open with your loved ones about this. Discuss your role as a caregiver and consider how you can each support one another. This open communication can help prevent arguments from arising over a simple misunderstanding.
- Spend plenty of quality time together. Caregiving can be very stressful, but there are caregiver respite programs that allow you to take a break from your responsibilities. Spending time with your spouse and loved ones is a great way to cope with caregiver stress, and who doesn’t need a break everyone once in a while?
- Celebrate your relationships. Whether it’s in a small or big way, make sure your loved ones know how much you mean to them. Realize that you’re not alone in this and that your relationships with your loved ones can have a big impact on your overall health. There’s no need to feel selfish when you spend time on your other relationships: when you care for yourself first, you are able to provide better care for your loved one.