Caregiver burnout and stress is taking its toll on a growing portion of the U.S. population
At some point in your life, you may be expected to provide informal care to a loved one. Informal care doesn’t mean care that isn’t valuable. It means care that is unpaid. This work may include running errands, grocery shopping, cooking meals, cleaning, paying bills, or more substantial personal care, medical management, or around the clock monitoring of an elderly loved one or disabled person. As time passes it becomes increasingly straining on the caregiver causing them to burnout.
The Care Giving Loop
What may have started as running a few errands for mom or dad or taking them to a doctor’s appointment, can quickly change with an illness, an accident, or the sudden realization that there is confusion and memory issues – dementia.
Caregivers often find themselves in a situation where they are providing more care and services month after month until they become the sole source, go-to provider of many critical activities and needs for an elderly person. This problem is exacerbated by the cost of care. There are often not enough financial resources to move an elderly person into an assisted living or nursing care facility and insurance and Medicare won’t cover non-medical living expenses.
Feeling Caught in the Loop
An AARP/United Health Fund study revealed the following:
- 57% of caregivers felt they had no choice but to perform clinical tasks because there was no other option
- 43% felt it was their personal responsibility for reasons such as no one else was available to do it, or insurance wouldn’t pay a professional
- 12% said pressure came from the care receiver
- 8% said it came from another family member
Caregiver Stress. A Growing Concern
Caregiver stress is a growing economic, medical, and social problem. The number of people needing care and people who provide care continues to grow each year as the population ages. A Pew Research Center survey found that, “39% of U.S. adults, nearly four in ten, were caring for an adult or child with significant health issues. Surveys from AARP estimate that close to 15 million people are caring for some with Alzheimer’s disease or another diagnosed dementia.”
There is no specific age for when someone will become a caregiver; however, the typical caregiver is a woman approximately 46-years-old with some college education. She is still in the workforce, and possibly caring for children. The burden of caring for an elderly parent or spouse may lead to economic problems due to reduced working hours and lost wages. A Gallup Healthways Wellbeing Survey reports that caregivers working at least 15-hours per week said it significantly affected their work life.
In addition to the financial stress, the Office of Women’s Health has identified these common caregiver stress-related medical problems.
- Depression or anxiety
- Long-term medical problems, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis
- Have higher levels of stress hormones
- More days sick with an infectious disease
- Weaker immune system
- Slower wound healing
- Higher levels of obesity
- Problems sleeping, either too much or too little
- Alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication abuse
Caregivers report not having the time or resources to care for themselves. Many feel too overwhelmed by their day-to-day responsibilities to add anything to their schedules.
Stress Relief How to Find the Balance
Caregivers must work to find a balance between caring for a loved one and caring for themselves.
The first step is accepting that you need help and letting others help you. Understand what you can provide and make a list of tasks and needs that others can help you with such as running errands or staying with your loved one so that you can take care of yourself.
Most communities have support services such as senior centers, elder services, and community centers with senior programs. Additionally, many religious organizations also provide support and activities. A helping hand may be closer than you think.
Respite and In-home Care
For many people, it can be hard to have someone come and care for your loved one. A home health care provider, adult day care program, or short-term nursing home can provide safe and enriching environments and at a cost that is often more affordable than moving them to a full-time care facility.
In home care can be scheduled to suit the care provider’s needs. It can also be the stress release needed to allow the loved one to remain at home and out of a permanent facility.
People Come First
Comfort Home Care aides are dementia and Alzheimer’s care certified by the Alzheimer’s Association. Our caregivers are trained to understand the phases of dementia, and changes in behavior. We use this information to provide the best care possible. We strive to understand a client’s health history and personal preferences, their current health and care needs, and what their future needs might be. We believe this is the best way to deliver meaningful care.