Caring for Multiple People at the Same Time

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Caring for Multiple People at the Same Time

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My alarm went off faithfully every morning at 6:00 a.m. I had the same routine: waking up my little brother and sister to make sure they got ready for school. While they were getting ready, I would check on mom to see if she needed anything before I took them to school. Some mornings were less chaotic than others. 

Depending on what kind of day mom had pain-wise, I would make sure she got her medicine, then while she was asleep I would try to rest. In the afternoons and evenings, I would pick up my siblings from school and make sure they ate, completed their homework, had some activities to do, etc. Mom got to a point where she couldn’t even bathe without my help. All of these responsibilities combined led to stress, worry, and exhaustion. If you are a caregiver, then this should speak to you. 

I know I’m not alone in this. Overworked and burdened. This is called compound caregiving.

Compound caregiving is defined as caring for more than two people at once. If you have to care for multiple individuals, it can be pretty terrifying and—frankly—overwhelming. Caregiver stress is a real concern. How can you manage this successfully yet maintain your sanity and life? Simply put: You can’t, at least not without help.

More often than not, caregiving is sudden and unexpected. You see a need, and you fulfill it without much help. Maybe you have an elderly or sick parent or other family members with no means of caring for themselves. If you are a working adult, plus caring for family members that may not have anyone else to look after them, this can add stress and toil to your already full plate.

Here is the harsh reality.

Caregiving can become a full-time job and not something to think lightly about. Without help, you may not be able to maintain a full-time work schedule. The financial toll that caregiving can take can be overwhelming as can the career costs. Having to put your life on hold to deal with certain care-related situations and to oversee the safety and wellbeing of a loved one can take an emotional toll, as well. 

Since becoming a National Cancer Advocate and speaker, I have come across many people from all walks of life who didn’t realize the recovery time, bills, doctors, insurance issues, etc. they would encounter while being a caregiver for a loved one. You cannot put a price on quality care. So let me offer a few tips….

Take care of yourself first.

Take it easy on yourself and be gentle. As much as you may want to help, you cannot lose sight of your own needs and responsibilities. Caregiving requires giving a lot of yourself. Taking some quality time when and where you can during a highly stressful period is essential to your wellbeing. Here are some coping strategies that are useful when caregiving becomes overwhelming. If you have other family members that can help, now is the time to try to get everyone on the same page regarding care and keeping a detailed schedule. 

Anxiety and depression can also happen when dealing with this because you might not have the strength to decompress when you need to. Often we feel guilty about not being able to always be present with our loved ones, and that guilt can carry over into how we deal with our own affairs. Don’t be afraid to reach out to caregiver support groups and use respite care when you need to. Always accept help when it is offered, and build your support system. Make sure to eat properly, exercise, and rest. 

Try to plan for the future as well as you can by seeing what resources are available to you through your state. Medical bills can pile up quickly, so having your insurance set-up properly is also crucial. If your loved one takes a turn for the worse, it’s important to have end-of-life decisions made ahead of time. Having a medical and financial power of attorney can make things less stressful on you when the time comes to pay bills and take care of your loved one’s estate. 

Utilizing an advance directive, such as the Five Wishes document, can give your loved one more choices as they near the end of their life by focusing on their quality of life and prioritizing comfort care and personal choices. Finally, research senior facilities as well as hospice and palliative care options for your loved one. Should the time come that these services are needed, you will be prepared. Call facilities, ask questions, and learn as much as you can about their intake process. If your loved one has these services at home, make sure you ask questions to your care team and demand the best care for your loved one by following these tips for talking to doctors

Find the joy. Cherish the good days, and remind yourself daily that, despite the difficulty, you are doing the very best you can. Be encouraged that this will not always be your reality, and you can make it through this tough time. Your loved ones may not always express it, but they are grateful for you, so pat yourself on the back and be encouraged. 


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