Solutions for Nine Common Caregiving Challenges 

Being a good caregiver for a person with arthritis means you first must take good care of yourself.

Take care of yourself: It’s advice you’ve probably heard countless times from medical professionals, friends and family members. If you’re a caregiver to a person with arthritis, meeting your own needs in addition to those of the person you’re caring for can be a challenge. 

In fact,, a website that provides resources to caregivers, says that caregiving is the single biggest source of stress for caregivers – even more so than their financial concerns and other family medical problems. Their physical and emotional health often suffer as a result.  

“It’s all too common to attend to the needs of the person you’re caring for before your own, not realizing that you can’t be fully effective if you neglect your health,” says Marion Somers, PhD, who owned and directed a geriatric-care management service in Brooklyn, New York, for more than 30 years. 

Here, she and other authorities on caregiving offer practical solutions to nine common challenges – physical, emotional and even financial – so you can keep up the good work without being worn down. 


"I’m completely exhausted.” 

According to an AARP survey, the average caregiver is a woman in her late 40s who cares for an aging parent, as well as her own nuclear family – and works outside the home, too.

Solution: Go for natural energy boosters - A good night’s sleep should top your list. Make healthy eating another priority. And set aside a few minutes each day for exercise. Sleep, good food and exercise should be non-negotiable parts of your daily routine, no matter what your caregiving duties bring.

“I’m overwhelmed by how much there is to do.” finds that most caregivers spend 10 to 40 hours a week providing services including shopping, talking with doctors and administering medications; “When you’re a caregiver, your day-to-day duties are literally doubled, and that can feel overwhelming, no matter how organized and capable you may be,” says Somers.

Solution: Focus on what’s truly important, and be up-front about your limitations - Talk to the person you are caring for about your time and energy limitations. Although it might be tempting to tackle the easiest tasks first, it’s smarter to identify and do what absolutely must get done before you run out of steam. If you can’t reasonably get it all done, call in the help of family and friends, or hire someone.

“Seeing my loved one this way makes me sad.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 7.6 percent of Americans have depression. But according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, that number skyrockets to 20 to 40 percent among caregivers. 

Solution: Give yourself some downtime, and focus on the positive - It’s crucial to give your brain and body a chance to recharge. “Even stealing five minutes to put on music in the car or call a friend when you’re out getting groceries is better than nothing,” says Somers.

It’s natural to be saddened by a difficult situation, but making a conscious choice to find the positive can do your heart and mind a world of good. But even the most positive person may not be able to prevent a situation from taking a heavy toll. If you’ve been feeling blue for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor; you may have clinical depression, which should be treated.

"It’s hard to always be the bearer of bad news.” 

Many caregivers have to convey or re-state health information to the person they’re caring for. 

Solution: Pick another point person. Most of the time, you shouldn’t be the messenger of health news - For example, if your father can’t drive anymore, the doctor should tell him. 

“My body hurts more now that I am a caregiver.”

Caregiving can involve physically demanding tasks, such as helping a person sit or stand, or supporting him as he walks. Even if you don’t do this kind of heavy lifting, you’re probably on your feet more – running up and down stairs or otherwise being more active.

Solution: Get more help from the person you’re caring for - Have her do as much as she’s able, even if she can’t do it perfectly or it takes three times as long. Not allowing a person to do for themselves creates what’s called “excess disability,” because it decreases their abilities and self-esteem.

“I take on tasks that probably aren’t safe for me.”

Hospitals and other care facilities have aides who handle heavy and difficult tasks, such as bathing an person who can’t stand on her own. Yet, caregivers may attempt these and many other duties alone because they feel that if they don’t, no one will.

Solutions: Get a reality check about your limits - Create a list of the caregiving tasks you do, and look at them objectively or run them by a trusted friend. Then ask a family member or hire a home health aide to help with tasks you shouldn’t be doing.

“I spend a lot of money on the person I care for.”

Running out to the grocery store for a few things, paying for parking at the physical therapy office – these things can add up. 

Solution: Keep finances separate. If you can’t, document expenses - Don’t use your own money when going on caregiving errands, such as picking up prescriptions, thinking you’ll get reimbursed later. Instead, if the person you’re caring for has a source of income, such as a pension or Social Security payment, use that money first. If you must use your own money, keep track by recording items and their costs. A written record is useful when asking other family members to share the financial responsibilities.

“I feel cut off from the rest of the world.”

Taking care of someone with limited mobility can make it difficult for a caregiver to leave the house for anything more than work or errands. 

Solution: Make social activities a priority - Get out of the house at least once a day – even if it's just to walk to the corner store. Ask friends, neighbors or family members to come over to get some fresh air with you. 

Seek out others in similar situations. Join an in-person or online support group for caregivers: visit Arthritis Foundation’s Live Yes community, Family Caregiver Alliance or Share the Care

“I feel burned out.”

From the emotional stress of seeing a loved one in need to the additional chores and financial worries, caregiving brings major stressors. 

Solution: Share the load - Depending on the level of care you loved one needs, it’s probably impossible for one person to do all the caregiving. Make a list of your duties, then delegate as many as possible. Ask someone else to take grandma to church. Don’t feel guilty about doing less – you’ll be a better caregiver because of it.

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