It is always challenging when the health of a family member starts to fail. We were reminded of this when my husband’s grandmother fell and broke her hip recently. She lives out of town and in a house that is not very appropriate for a person with limited mobility. At this point, we are not sure what type of long term care she will need, but having a family member act as a caregiver is a likely scenario. If a relative decides to take on a caregiver role, there are many pros and cons to consider.
Pros of Being a Caregiver
Peace of Mind-This is your relative that has loved and taken care of you. There is a certain pride and honor in caring for a relative who helped you become the person you are, and your relatives will likely be happier receiving care from you rather than a stranger. You also know the standard of care that is being provided to your loved one.
Less Expense-Being a caregiver for a relative would be much less expensive than hiring an outsider or paying for a long term care facility.
Bonding-When we leave home, we are often determined to do our own thing, but older relatives hold the keys to family history and traditions. I often wish I’d paid more attention to my Grandma’s recipes or gardening tips when she was alive. This could be your chance to figure out all the family secrets.
Cons of Being a Caregiver
Giving Up Personal Freedoms-When you take on the role of a caregiver, you are giving up your own personal time. It will be hard for you to travel or take time off. While you might feel an obligation or even desire to take care of older relatives, you might also have the conflicting emotion of resentment.
Extra Work– Many people think of caregivers as tending to the daily medical and personal needs of a patient. This could include cooking, helping with bathing and personal grooming, and getting dressed. You might also have to clean house, buy extra groceries,wash someone else’s clothes, and run more errands. When my Grandpa came to live with my parents, he often sent my mother out to buy his chewing tobacco. She was mortified, but it was easier to keep him happy than argue.
Guilt-Although you might love your relative more than anyone, you probably have not had training to deal with many of the issues you will be facing. You could easily hurt yourself trying to lift another adult, and it might be hard to adjust to changing personalities that often occur with dementia. The same Grandpa that sent my mom for chewing tobacco also became obsessed with constipation. If he wasn’t regular for a couple of days, he demanded an enema. My mom ended up hiring a nurse to help with bathroom needs, but I know she felt some guilt for having to do that.
Becoming a caregiver might be a good fit for you and a loved one in need of help, but it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons. It is also important to have a plan in case you are unable to meet everyone’s needs. Maybe you have other relatives that can help, or you might be able to hire someone for a few hours a day to allow some personal time. There really is no right or wrong answer, but having some ideas about what to expect can make a big difference in quality of life for all involved.
Have you had experience with caregiving? Could you take care of elderly parents or in-laws?