Keeping it in the Family – The Challenges of being a Family Caregiver By, Cahal Carmody

We all run the risk that something will happen to us, making it difficult or impossible for us to take care of ourselves. Events such as a car accident, a serious disease or simply our aging bodies happen everyday.

What is just as possible is that someone else in our family will be the one who needs help and, as a result, we’ll have to take on the role of family caregiver.

This is usually not a problem by itself. Most family caregivers will tell you that there is joy and satisfaction in this role. It is a privilege to take care of someone you love, especially someone who once took care of you.

Still, it can be very hard work, requiring sacrifice and commitment. What makes the job harder is doing things alone with minimal support from outside or public resources.

Here are some challenges that might surprise you.

Physical Demands

Caregivers help with bathing, feeding, transferring from bed to chair to toilet every day, often putting their own physical wellbeing at risk. Many are overwhelmed and exhausted but won’t give up if it keeps their loved one out of long term care.


Caregivers often have to perform professional duties without any training, such as administering medications, intravenous fluids or injections. They may also have to deal with various legal and financial responsibilities. In the absence of a valid Power of Attorney, they have to decide who controls money, who will make healthcare decisions, and what the healthcare decisions will be.

Balancing Act

Balancing caregiving responsibilities with the demands of your job and your family can be difficult. Calling doctors, checking in with social workers or scheduling appointments usually need to be done during daytime hours. That’s why many caregivers need workplace accommodations such as going in late, leaving work early or taking time off. Don’t forget your own kids, their hectic schedules are enough to run you ragged even without caregiving obligations.


Many family caregivers experience loneliness and isolation. Often, their community and friends have no idea what they are going through every day and wonder why they’re not as active in social events any more. It is critical that you don’t forget about your own needs while you’re caring for your loved one. Caregivers need care too.

TIP: Don’t try to do it all. You can’t do everything on your own, especially from a distance. If you don’t get the support you need, you’ll quickly burn out which will compromise your ability to provide care. Professional homecare support is available to provide whatever support is needed—anything from a few hours a month to relieve a family caregiver to daily care for families that require greater support.

CAHAL CARMODY is the owner of Premier Homecare Services Toronto Central, which is accredited with exemplary standing, the highest level awarded by Accreditation Canada™.

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