Caring for the Family Caregiver
How to help family caregivers protect
their own health and wellbeing
There are around 34.2 million people in the U.S. caring for an older relative, with many providing care for 20
hours a week. But family caregivers do more than just help their relatives, they also save the U.S. government just
under $500 billion a year. As older adults make up the fastest-growing population and are also now living longer, a
gap is widening between the need and availability of family caregivers. By 2030, nearly 73 million Americans will be at least 65 and the number of
older adults over 60 likely to need support is expected to rise to 37% by 2050.
|As the average age increases, the number of older adults requiring support is
growing every year.
(Image by JD Mason)
Taking on responsibility for an elderly
A report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine urges the new presidential administration to create a nationwide strategy that provides better support
to family caregivers. The report outlines that the average caregiver is over 55, married and the average age of
the person they care for is 79 years old. Family caregivers often have higher rates of anxiety, stress,
depression and illness, according to the report. And it's common for caregivers to reduce their expenses,
working hours or simply leave their jobs to be able to balance caring for their elderly relative while looking
after their own family.
Pressure on families and relationships
Providing care for a parent or relative as they get older can be rewarding and stressful (PDF). Research shows that an increasing number
of family caregivers are having to perform more nursing tasks. Relatives are having to deliver injections,
undertake colostomy and catheter care, maintain tube feeds and many other complex care requirements.
There can also be added pressures on the carer and care receiver relationship. Often just raising the
topic of care with an older relative or parent can be very
difficult, especially if the person is unwilling to accept that they need help. Caring for an older loved one
can also add significant financial strain for families.
Looking after yourself as the carer
It is a huge responsibility to take on the care of older relatives, even if they are your own parents. It can be a huge drain
on your time, energy, finances and health. But it's important that you look after yourself too and eat and sleep
well and take breaks when possible. It's also important to talk to your own doctor if you are finding things are
getting a bit too much. Sometimes just talking to someone can make a huge difference. Always try to make the
most of the good times, so when things are difficult, you have some positive memories to hold on to.
|Providing care to a family member, including one's own elderly parents, is a big
that can be a huge drain on one's time, energy, finances and health.
There are a number of strategies that can help family caregivers to protect their
own health and wellbeing.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
You cannot do this alone and there is nothing to be ashamed with in asking for help. You want to give your
parents the best care, so to do that you need the right support. It is important to ask for help before you
actually need it and before you hit the wall of exhaustion. Whether it is by speaking to your doctor, or asking
members of your family for help. Find out what community resources are
available in your area and give yourself the breaks you need.
To take some of the pressure off you and keep everything afloat, create a schedule of your daily tasks, as well
as a calendar for outings and appointments. This will mean that if you take some time off, or are unwell, someone
else can step in and easily pick up what needs to be done.
Develop a support network for you
For many people, just knowing they are not alone is hugely valuable. Being able to get stuff off their chest,
share feelings and emotions can make a huge difference. Having a sympathetic ear or compassionate group of
like-minded people offers perspective and comfort.
When caring gets too much
If looking after an older relative is simply proving too much for you and your family to cope with, then you may
have to make the difficult decision to place them in a care home facility. This is particularly important if your
own health is starting to suffer or the person’s condition has deteriorated and caring for them has become
increasingly difficult. Contemplating moving your parent into a care home can make you feel guilty and a failure.
But it's important to remember that providing care for an elderly relative can be the hardest thing a person may
have to do, no matter how much you love them.