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The term "caregiving" typically refers to the act of caring for a sick or disabled person at home. Often, this care is administered by a family member or a close friend. The extent and duration of caregiving can range widely, from helping a person recover for a few days after surgery to long-term care for a person with a chronic disability or mental illness.

For people who choose to serve as a caregiver for a loved one, there can be a number of challenges. In some cases, people accept these challenges as part of life’s course, and they express satisfaction in being able to care for a loved one. Other times, however, the challenges of caregiving can become overwhelming. Some caregivers need outside help and support not only for the loved one they're caring for, but also for themselves.

Challenges of Caregiving

Some of the greatest challenges for caregivers occur when caring for an older loved one with a chronic, debilitating physical or mental illness. Alzheimer’s disease is one common example of this. Often, people in these situations need help with every aspect of their life: bathing, eating and even going to the bathroom. The demands of such an arrangement on a loved one can be quite taxing. In addition, those being care for may develop a number of disturbing behaviors as their symptoms progress. This may include personality changes, aggression, agitation, hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. It can put a large burden on the caregiver, who may not be trained to handle some of these situations.

When Extra Help Is Needed

One of the ways caregivers can help themselves is by learning as much as possible about the disease or condition of the person they're caring for. That way, they’ll be prepared and understand the challenges that may lie ahead. Many caregivers also find it helpful to find a caregiver support group. This gives caregivers the opportunity to learn tips and techniques from others and talk about their problems with a group of like-minded individuals.

Of course, there comes a time for many when the burdens of caregiving are simply too much to handle alone. In these instances, it might be time to look into placing the loved one in a nursing home or an assisted living facility.

SOURCE:U.S. National Institute on Aging

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