November is National Family Caregiver Month

By: Evelyn Bueno

 

Caregivers 

What is a caregiver you might ask? Caregivers are defined as any person offering help or services to someone in need. This can include family, home caregiver or a caregiver nurse. Caregivers are often associated with older adults. In fact, this is not always true, rather it is someone who offers services including but not limited to personal care, day to day life activities, and helping family members take care of their loved one.  According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP there are over 53 million Americans taking care of a loved one today. Which is expected to increase as the aging population keeps growing. One and five Americans are family caregivers. Family caregivers are often unpaid, most take care of someone suffering with a mental illness (Caregiving the in U.S 2020 Report, 2020). Caregivers are often children taking care of their elderly parents, there has been a 4% increase in caregivers now taking care of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or related illness.

 

Women Caregivers

Did you know that most of the caregivers in the U.S are women? Women caregivers not only have to manage their loved one and their health concerns, but most have fulltime jobs and families to take care of.  Women caregivers are also often taking care of more than one elderly individual (Caregiving in the U.S Report, 2020).  According to the National Alliance for Caregiver and AARP 61% of caregivers in the US are women.  Women are viewed as the matriarchs of families and are the first to step up even with their busy schedule. The average age for someone to take on a caregiving role is between 49-51 years old.

 

Struggles Caregivers Face Daily

Caregivers face an array of overwhelming concerns daily. Dealing with a loved one who is mentally ill can become overwhelming and difficult. Caregivers also face emotion problems of their own— many report a sense of loneliness or feeling lost and confused. Caregivers spend roughly about 23+ hours a week taking care of their loved one, in some cases while balancing a full-time job, children and other responsibilities. And, if the person you are caregiving for lives at home with you, the number of hours dedicated to them rises to about 37 hours a week (Caregiving the in U.S 2020 Report, 2020). Caregivers help their loved ones get dressed, use the restroom, shower and feed themselves. As the severity of the diagnosis increases, the more rigorous the care taking process requires of the caregiver.  Caregivers are often left with very little time for self-care contributing to emotional burn-out. Caregivers also struggle with the financial burden it cost of caregiving due to cost of medications, appropriate care items that help a person function daily, extra caregiving support, and daily living costs. Due to the additional financial burden, one in five caregivers report high financial strain. Caregiver’s employment is also often impacted by their ability to function properly at work and/or due to missed work days. This in turn, can cause them to lose their job and experience additional financial strain. Caregivers have been reported to losing their job, friends and housing because of caregiving (Caregiving the in U.S 2020 Report, 2020). Women already have the daily stress of being the organizers of their home. They care for the lives of their children, while also supporting their partner. Women who are caregivers for adult parents and children are part of the “sandwich generation” and generally have double the stress. Caregiver stress can stem from emotional and physical strain, it is common among individuals who are caring for their loved one. Women are more at risk for experiencing caregiver stress which can have harmful health effects. The effects of caregiver stress can include depression, anxiety, weakened immune system, obesity and increased risk for chronic diseases (Caregiver Stress, 2019). In addition, women caregivers are also less likely to get regular health screenings, adequate sleep, or regular physical activity (Caregiver Stress, 2019).

 

What can Caregivers/Family members do to make the situation better?

Caregivers can attend caregiver support groups. This can be a great resource for caregivers to connect with others who are going through similar situations and allow them to feel supported and find someone to lean on. Caregivers who are struggling financially and may be eligible for transportation services at a reduced cost, they may also be eligible for support services through the state for their loved one.

Caregivers have also reported that ordering groceries online and having them delivered to their house has reduced some of the stress. There are many offices of aging around the U.S., local offices are available as a resource in your community. The offices have onsite social workers and supporting staff who can help connect caregivers with resources locally and offer emotional support over the phone.

Online websites are also a great resource tool, that is easily accessible to caregivers. They also offer additional reading and education about burnout, self-care, and how to adequately care for your loved one. Currently many support groups are offering their services via web due to COVID-19. A few of the many online resources accessible to caregivers are the following:

 

National Family Caregiver Support Program

https://acl.gov/programs/support-caregivers/national-family-caregiver-support-program

Elder Care Locator:

https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx

Caregiver Action Network:

https://caregiveraction.org/

There are also specialized Caregiver Support Groups and Resources for family’s dealing with a loved with diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The following are useful resources to gain support and information about how to care for your loved with experiencing these issues.

Alzheimer’s Association:

https://alz.org/

The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA):

https://www.lbda.org/

 

If you are a caregiver, make sure to remember to take care of yourself. Take time to do something you enjoy. If you are a family or friend to a caretaker remember to check on their mental health and offer tangible support through this ever-changing journey. Think about taking them out for a self-care day or bring by dinner or offer an hour or two of respite care. Sometimes all that a caregiver needs is someone to listen to them about how hard their day has been. While there are men and women who are caregivers, we know that women primarily take on this role. Women remember that you are powerful, strong, and resilient. You are not in this journey alone, and always remember that your loved one appreciates the care and love you provide for them!

 

References

Caregiver stress. (2019, June 03). Retrieved October 30, 2020, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/caregiver-stress`1

Caregiving the in U.S 2020 Report. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/AARP1316_RPT_CaregivingintheUS_WEB.pdf

Caregiving in the US 2020. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://www.caregiving.org/caregiving-in-the-us-2020/

General Caregiving. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://www.caregiving.org/resources/general-caregiving/

National Family Caregivers Month. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://www.mhanational.org/national-family-caregivers-month

What is a Caregiver and How Can They Help You or a Loved One? (2017, October 28). Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://aging.com/what-is-a-caregiver/

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