Becoming the Family Caregiver – What You Should Know
It can happen in the blink of an eye; an accident, a life-altering injury, or a diagnosis creates the instant need for ongoing, long-term care of a beloved family member.
Who is there to do this except for you?
Today, an increasingly older population, advances in healthcare, and other factors, like inflation, are making this scenario a reality for more and more adults.
What Is a Caregiver?
Typically, caregivers are unpaid family members or friends assisting elderly adults and family members suffering chronic conditions or disabilities with daily necessities like shopping, bathing, dressing, bill paying, and managing prescriptions.
Family caregivers are often the recipient’s primary companionship and emotional support source.
Being a caregiver is usually a learning process without formal training. Women comprise 58% of all caregivers, and nearly 1/3 routinely spend at least 20 hours providing care each week. Interestingly, among caregivers, 79% care for adults over 50, and an equal percentage of recipients are at least 65.
The Increasing Need
Between 2015 and 2020, caregivers grew from 43.5 million to approximately 53 million, representing more than 20% of the population. And, there is no end in sight as an estimated 73 million Americans will soon reach 65 years or older, with many requiring long-term care.
Our aging population makes it prudent to understand the role and challenges you may face as your loved ones grow older.
Concerns for Caregivers
While your caregiving efforts help the recipient maintain their independence and quality of life and allow them to remain in a home setting, these efforts can also take their toll on you.
Almost 20% of caregivers report having to quit work, with another 40% reducing their hours. Family caregivers frequently pay out-of-pocket for their charge’s needs.
Family caregivers often ignore their health and well-being in service of their loved ones. Providing ongoing care and assisting with daily needs can become stressful.
Dealing with cognitive and behavioral issues adds to the stress and challenges for family caregivers, increasing the risk of them having multiple chronic conditions. Depression, anxiety, diminished quality of life, and well-being are all common issues for family caregivers.
On the Plus Side
Being a family caregiver can increase self-confidence and satisfaction from helping someone else. You will gain new knowledge and skills and, ideally, build friendships and connections with other caregivers.
It is important to remember that your caregiving allows your family member to remain at home with family and in a familiar environment.
The value for them is immeasurable.
Take Care of Yourself
It can be easy to focus so narrowly on your caregiving that you ignore your welfare. Caregiving is demanding, and if you are not physically or mentally healthy, the care you can give will be limited, just like anything else.
Ask for Help
Reach out to family and friends. You might be surprised at the response when you make them aware of their friend’s or loved one’s challenges and needs. They are often ready to help but unsure of what to do and do not want to intrude.
Your church or place of worship will often have resources available to help both you and your loved one. Support groups specific to most conditions, diseases, and caregiving provide peer support, and community feedback and interactions. Here is a link to help you get started.
Various avenues for receiving pay as a family caregiver are available today; you can learn more about this here.
The value you provide by becoming a family caregiver is priceless for the recipient. While the challenges and effort are substantial, the rewards can be equally difficult to achieve otherwise.
But your caregiving must include yourself.
To provide the highest level of care, you must be at or near the top of your game. And don’t neglect to ask for help because nobody can provide all the necessary care by themselves.
It is essential for you as a caregiver to seek out support that can help sustain your efforts. Please take advantage of the resources above and speak with a therapist if this is the best avenue for the support you need.
Your work is too important, and your well-being is crucial to that work.