Being a young caregiver for a cherished family member is a difficult trade-off of helping someone else manage their life while trying to live yours. When you’re younger, you’re right in the fast-burning fire of building your career and personal life. You’re hungry, eager, and making as many connections as you possibly can both personally and professionally.
Then all of a sudden you become a caregiver, life’s not all about you anymore. Being a caregiver requires a lot of personal sacrifice to a parent or family member, and your time and energy are bound together with the needs of that person. You’re a team, no doubt, and it can be a very challenging shift in priorities when you become a caregiver as an up-and-coming professional.
Achieving your goals and dreams while doing the vital work of caring for a loved one is about balance and time management, but remember: help is out there. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own! Most young people are fiercely independent and that’s a good thing when you’re trying to get ahead, but when it comes to caregiving, it’s important to lean into the caregiver support that’s out there.
Leaning in is for you, for them—for both of you.
It’s is a Bigger Adjustment than you Realize
When you’re an up-and-coming professional, it’s easy to burn the candle from both ends and in the middle as well. You’re focussed and willing to do whatever it takes, and that means late nights, early mornings, and running around every hour in between.
When you’re working at your absolute maximum for your career, your home or apartment is usually where you go to relax, drop your work clothes on the floor, and decompress from the rigors of the day. It’s a haven. A retreat. A quiet warm bath with some candles at 11:30pm where you can soak off the stress and recharge your chi to wake up ready to face the following day.
One of the most challenging adjustments for young caregivers is that home becomes a place of work as well as rest. Your day probably isn’t ending when your boss tells you to shut the laptop and hit the road, and you may even run into unexpected emergencies. Everyone else you know gets to be off, but you have to be on for another few hours, get up early, and get right back to it.
You Can’t Afford to Burn Out
That’s going to take a toll on you in many ways you didn’t anticipate, and you may not realize how much until you’re at your breaking point. The difference between you and everyone else who is not a caregiver is that you don’t get to fall apart. There are no sick days for caregivers even when you’re sick, and those four-day weekends aren’t drop-everything spur-of-the-moment trips to Cancun with your bestie.
You have to manage your physical and emotional stress the way a Swiss watch escapement regulates the power from the mainspring, not unravel all at once like an anchor hurtling to the sea floor. Unfortunately, most young people have precisely zero experience managing stress, interruptions, a work-life balance, and the deep emotional pressures of being a full-time caregiver.
Use Your Resources
Face it: you need help. Not tomorrow. Not after you figure out what this whole caregiver thing is going to be like. Now. Before things get out of control. And fortunately, there are a lot of resources for young caregivers out there who are facing exactly the same situation you are. We have one piece of advice for you:
Fight your instincts. Lean. In.
Lean into the caregiver support that is all around you! You’re not weak, you’re strong for taking advantage of the resources, expertise, and assistance that’s already out there waiting to help you make being a caregiver something you are, and not let caregiving make you something you aren’t.
Find Your Community
You are probably the only one of your friends who is also a caregiver, and you may be the only person you know. But you are definitely not alone out there. Today, 53 million Americans are providing unpaid caregiver support to a loved one, and 46% of caregivers are under 50.
There are many online communities and local support groups who can answer your questions and get you ahead of the game before your head is underwater. Get connected! Not only will you get the information you need, but the support and personal experience of people who are going through (and have already gone through) the challenges you’re facing.
You deserve to have the emotional and informational support that is required to give the person you’re caring for the caregiver support they deserve, while also getting the strategies you need to make sure life doesn’t pass you by.
I-Ally is Here to Give You the Caregiver Support You Need
I-Ally is an online community of caregivers offering support, expert advice, and a network of wonderful caregivers just like you. Millennials are 40% more likely to become primary caregivers, and today they represent one third of multigenerational caregivers.
You are not alone, you are going to make it. I-Ally is dedicated to making your life one of balance, health, happiness, and success.