Family has been key to our existence, survival and flourishing since the beginning of time. Family members have cared for one another for ages, however three things have changed that are important to note.
- Lifespans are increasing – In the past, when an elder member of the family needed care, the family pitched in to assist with that care for a short period of time until the one needing care passed away. Family caregiving is a wonderful thing when it’s a short term solution, however, over the long term (especially if not planned for) family caregiving will take its toll on you emotionally, physically and relationally.
- Care needs are more complex – With the increase of lifespans comes the increase in comorbidities which is the existence of more than one pathological condition in the same person. As someone ages, the increase in their lifespan means that statistically their chances of for example having Parkinson’s disease and then also being diagnosed with dementia increases significantly and most family caregivers are not properly trained for even a single diagnosis, let alone the complexities of several comorbidities.
- Families are geographically dispersed – Gone are the days when most families stayed in the town they grew up in. If they did, there would be additional support in the area to spread the burden of family caregiving. The fact is that we are more dispersed throughout the US and the world then ever placing a disproportionate burden on the family member who happens to live in the town where the one in need of care lives.
The statistics on family caregiving are staggering.
- According to an AARP study the average distance between adults age 60+ and their nearest child is 280 miles.[i]
- The ratio of potentially available family caregivers to those over 80 is decreasing from 7:1 to 4:1 by 2030 and to less than 3:1 by 2050.[ii]
- Up to 70% of family caregivers report symptoms of depression[iii] and 19% a high level of physical strain.[iv]
- About 61% of family caregivers are forced to make workplace accommodations that lead to decreased productivity, loss of benefits, loss of income or in the worst cases, loss of employment.[v]
- Caregivers are 50% more likely to experience daily physical pain then their colleagues who do not have caregiving responsibilities and 25% more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure.[vi]
Obviously we’re a huge proponent of professional caregiving through a state licensed agency who is also a member of the HCAOA, but what if that won’t work for you? Here are some tips for you to help you avoid the downward spiral of family caregiving
- Plan ahead – Ask questions regarding how long you will likely need to be on point as a caregiver. If your loved one is relatively healthy but they are simply recovering from a broken bone, You may need to make your self available for 6 to 8 weeks which is reasonable. If they have a terminal illness that is not imminently fatal, you need to plan ahead so you’re not surprised by all the work it will take.
- Be realistic – You can’t do everything and you shouldn’t try to do everything. You have an emotional connection and bond that is unique and it is a connection to your loved one that nobody else can provide. Focus on that and outsource everything else that you can. Ask for help with chores from multiple family members, neighbors, friends and church or synagogue members.
- Surround yourself with advisors – There are hundreds of professionals in this industry who feel it is their life’s purpose to help seniors and family navigate through this third act of life. Utilize their expertise. Many offer a no charge consultation to give free advice. Give us a call, we’d love to answer your questions or refer you to a trusted professional in our network.
- Schedule purposeful downtime and activities OUTSIDE!!! – Cabin Fever is a real thing. Too frequently, a family caregiver sacrifices the life they once had outside the home to stay inside and side by side with the care recipient. This is not sustainable long term and needs to be intentional and scheduled from the start.
- Consider regular respite care – Even if daily or weekly professional caregiving services are not in your plan, please consider respite care once a month to allow you some freedom to do something to relax and pamper yourself such as a mini weekend vacation. You own it to your loved ones to recharge and take care of yourself so that you don’t end up needing care as well.
We hope you’ve found this information helpful and please give us a call with any questions.
[i] AARP “Aging, Migration, and Local Communities: The Views of 60+ Residents and Community Leaders.” Page 130. Sep. 2006. Available at: http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/il/migration.pdf
[ii] Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. “Key Facts.” Page 7. 2014. Available at: http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/jchs.harvard.edu/files/jchs_housing_americas_older_adults_2014_key_facts.pdf
[iii] American Psychological Association. “Family Caregiving.” Available at: http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/cyf/cargiving-facts.aspx
[iv] National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. “Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.” Page 10. 2015. Available at: http://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CareginingintheUS_Final-Report-June-4_WEB.pdf
[v] National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. “Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.” Page 61. 2015. Available at: http://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CareginingintheUS_Final-Report-June-4_WEB.pdf
[vi] National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. “Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.” Page 61. 2015. Available at: http://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CareginingintheUS_Final-Report-June-4_WEB.pdf