Caregiving, caregivers and the problems associated with meeting the needs of our growing senior population are among the greatest challenges facing our society. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2008 there were more than 34 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. This figure does not include the professional workers who provide home care, home health aide, respite care or senior day care, and the number has surely grown since 2008. Unpaid caregivers provided an estimated 90% of the long term in-home care services, the majority coming from family members.
Typically, the home care provider was a female in her mid-40’s who provided 20 or more hours of care each week, most likely to a parent. Thirty-seven percent of the caregivers had quit their job or reduced their work hours to take this responsibility. More than half of these caregivers reported that their own health had declined and, according to the AARP, home care providers actually spent an average of $5,531 on out-of-pocket expenses related to their senior care responsibilities.
Considering the emotional, physical, financial and other stresses placed on these caregivers, it is not surprising that many of them experience ‘burnout’. The stresses placed on a caregiver’s physical and mental health can often lead to fatigue, hopelessness and symptoms similar to those of clinical depression. These signs may include changes in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns, social withdrawal, overuse of alcohol or tranquilizers and others. In some cases, the caregiver can end up in worse condition than the home care recipient.
How can the caregiver avoid burnout? There is help available from both volunteer and professional sources, but caregivers themselves must be willing to reach out and to accept it. Sometimes this is difficult for the caregiver; she or he may feel that the responsibility is theirs alone. The first step in avoiding caregiver burnout is to accept that you need and deserve help.
If the situation permits, the first place to turn for help is likely to be other family members. This should be someone in whom you can confide and talk to about your challenges and frustrations. The ideal situation is for all family members to share equally in caregiver responsibilities, but often this is not possible. Work commitments, distances involved and social factors make this difficult or impossible, meaning that most of the responsibility will often fall on a single family member.
No matter how big a person’s sense of duty is, they should always keep in mind a few guiding principles for caregivers.
- Be realistic about your loved one’s condition and about your ability to handle the situation. If the care recipient is suffering from a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s, their condition is going to deteriorate no matter how good their caregiver may be. Accept the fact that there is only so much you can do and look for help.
- Remember that taking care of yourself is not an extravagance, it is a necessity. After all, who will care for them if you are not there? Hospice workers know that it is not unusual for caregivers to fall ill and even die before the person they are caring for, so do not ignore your own health. Make a point of maintaining your health with enough exercise and sleep and a healthy diet.
- Consult a professional appropriate to your loved one’s condition. A medical specialist, social worker, senior placement advisor or clergy member can be of great help.
- Seek out respite care services like senior day care or church sponsored senior care providers. Respite care gives the caregiver at least a temporary break. This can range from a few hours of senior care at a day facility or from a professional in-home care service to a short stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
- Become educated about your loved one’s illness. The better you understand the condition, the more effective you will be as a caregiver.
- Accept the fact that you will sometimes have negative feelings. Frustration, anger or sadness are inevitable. This does not mean that you are a bad person or that you are not “doing your duty.” It means that you are human.
The points made above are all very sensible thinking, but how do you locate the resources you need to become a better caregiver and to prevent caregiver burnout? That is why Ourseniors.net exists! Ourseniors.net is a complete, Florida-wide resource directory for seniors and their families. We aim to be the go-to source for dependable, trustworthy information on all the needs of seniors and their families.
The Ourseniors.net website, its staff and its future magazine publication will guide you to the best in senior living options and resources. These will include:
- Directories for organizations dedicated to helping seniors and their families. A few examples are the AARP, the Alzheimer’s Resource Center, local Council on Aging groups and many others.
- Local public agencies like the VA, Consumer Protection Agencies, Police and Sheriffs’ Offices, Senior Housing Authorities and others.
- Non-government organizations like food banks, credit counseling, churches and other service groups.
- Assisted living facilities, retirement communities, in-home care professionals, respite care, etc.
- Trusted businesses whose services are aimed at filling the needs of seniors.
You can turn to Ourseniors.net to find the best assisted living facilities near you, in-home care, retirement communities and senior living needs of any and all types. Please tour our website at OurSeniors.net and then contact our staff at 866-333-2657.
Thank you from OurSeniors.net and have a great day!