Family Caregiving: Challenging, yet Gratifying

There are several forms of caregiving ranging from formal to informal. If you are caring for a parent, child, or sibling who is sick or disabled, you are still providing caregiving services. Many family members do not consider themselves as caretakers when they are helping a loved one. The position can be short term or long term, but either way, the demand for care can become overwhelming and stressful for the caregiver.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, about 44 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid “informal” care each year for adult family members and friends with chronic illnesses or conditions that prevent them from handling daily activities. 75% of caregiving support in the United States is provided particularly by women.

Informal caregiving has an effect on our economy. Just in 2013 alone, the economic value of unpaid informal caregiving was estimated at $470 billion. Source 1 When caretakers are helping family, they typically cut back on work hours, use personal or vacation days, or leave their jobs completely. This can cause financial strains due to lost wages, loss of health insurance, and possibly even loss of social security benefits. When caregivers suffer, they can have a difficult time dealing with the stress and accountability.

On the flip side, it is rewarding to share quality time with a loved one and to assist them in the daily activities they can no longer perform themselves. These activities may include bathing, managing medications or preparing meals. You never want to give up when one is in need; however there are other options to ease the stress on informal caregivers.

Helpful tips on managing caregiver responsibility:

  1. Understand the patient’s condition; use all your resources to learn as much as you can about the disease at all its stages. Speak with the physician to make sure you understand the care plan and what to expect if it progresses. Being proactive can help you manage and prepare.
  2. Encourage the patient to stay strong and mindful, they should not become completely dependent on you. Make sure they understand their current condition and the importance of following the plan of care.
  3. Know your limits, you are only human, you can’t do everything on your own. As much as you would like to be there all the time, it is probably not possible. You need to make sure you are taking care of yourself. If you’re not in the right state of mind or health, it will become a disservice to the patient.
  4. Seek help from others. It’s ok to ask for help, you can reach out to other family members or seek professional care. Homecare agencies have trained staff that can help provide services in the patient’s home. Depending on the kind of services (medical or non-medical), the appropriate staff will be assigned.

Family caregivers should to make the best of their situation. Unfortunately it’s not easy, but you are not alone. Family caregiving is becoming very common. With the 65+ age group expected to double to 70 million people by 2030, family caregivers increasingly provide care for aging parents, siblings, and friends, most of whom have one or more chronic conditions and who wish to remain in their own homes and communities as they age. Source 2 Check out home care agencies near your loved one, set an appointment and see if it’s the right fit for you and your family.

Source 1: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/briefing/factsheets/2015/11/22/caring-economy/

Source 2: https://www.caregiver.org/caregiving

Written by: Michelle Spinelli is the Sales Effectiveness Coordinator at Sandata Technologies, LLC

Michelle