Caregiving can be a wonderful, rewarding experience. Spending quality time with a senior allows for lessons to be learned, memories to be shared, and love to be shown between all involved parties. Seniors benefit from the presence of caregivers, and their caregivers benefit from the wisdom and experience that comes with age. Yet caregiving is not all sunshine, roses, and crossword puzzles—it can take its toll, and this toll can prevent caregivers from continuing to give quality care. Genworth Financial’s Cost of Care Survey for 2015 revealed some very interesting information about how caregivers in the United States feel about the care they give, the work they do (often for free), and how it affects their lives.
Personal Health and Well-Being
Of the caregivers surveyed, 43% said that caring for a senior over the long term “negatively affected their personal health and well-being.” These negative effects could be anything from costing money or time away from work to side effects like depression, which 41% of caregivers say they have experienced. Sacrificing some time, energy, and even resources in order to provide good care is something that almost every caregiver does happily, but needing medical treatment or counseling is not what they want to deal with when trying to provide care.
“Of the caregivers surveyed, 43% said that caring for a senior over the long term “negatively affected their personal health and well-being.”
There are ways to avoid this type of negative impact, however. Planning respite care is essentially arranging for someone to relieve the caregiver at his or her post for a few days or even weeks. Seniors may be placed in facilities for brief periods of time or family members may tap into a wider Circle of Care surrounding a senior to find someone who can step in for a time. Taking a vacation, getting one’s own affairs in order, and generally being stress-free during this time can truly make the difference when the person returns to caregiving. Caregivers may also want to work on a plan to share caregiving responsibilities with an in-home health aide or with another loved one, lessening the load. Caregivers should always be honest about their stress levels and find time for themselves; it may be thought of as getting an oil change on a car. No one would want to drive a car 100,000 miles without an oil change. No one could trust such a car to run well. Caregivers need time for themselves and their own self-care–they need time for regular oil changes!
Stress is one of the most difficult parts of caregiving. Genworth found that a third of caregivers report highly elevated levels of stress, meaning caregivers frequently feel overwhelmed by the tasks facing them. Stress is a dangerous thing; it can cause physical problems and emotional ones, and it can also make a person a less excellent caregiver. Instead of ignoring stress, family members/caregivers do well to find ways to work it out and relieve it. Respite care or sharing caregiving, as mentioned above, can give a caregiver some time and space away from the work of caregiving, but small changes can make big differences too. Spending time running or exercising in other ways can help relieve the body of stress. Finding time to listen to music or to visit the movies alone or with friends can be refreshing. Finding low-stress activities to do together with the senior in one’s care, such as puzzles or a festival in a local park, can also make caregiving less stressful and more about enjoying each other’s company.
More than half of all caregivers surveyed did not feel qualified to provide the physical care their loved one needed in 2015. That is a huge sense of discomfort within the caregiving community that must be addressed. Doing so requires doctors, nurses, and caregivers to work together to find solutions that are safe for seniors and that help them live longer, healthier lives. Many caregivers can be trained or taught how to safely provide physical care, such as injecting medications or using medical equipment. Others should find ways to make it happen, even if they cannot personally provide it themselves—and that is where physicians and other healthcare professionals come in. An in-home health aide or visits to a doctor’s office can make the magic of physical care happen.
“Caregivers also should find some comfort in knowing that they are among thousands (even millions) of caregivers who feel the same way and are looking for solutions.”
Planning ahead and asking for help are the keys to minimizing difficulties.
Overall, the findings of this survey will likely not shock any caregiver with some experience. Stress and struggle are, unfortunately, part of the process. Yet planning ahead and asking for help are the keys to minimizing difficulties. Over 50% of caregivers and their charges felt that planning ahead would have made the tasks easier.
Caregivers also should find some comfort in knowing that they are among thousands (even millions) of caregivers who feel the same way and are looking for solutions. The caregiving community is vast and varied, but they are all looking for one thing: the best possible lives for themselves and the seniors in their care.
Genworth Financial. Annual Median Costs for Care. Genworth Financial, 2016. Available at https://www.genworth.com/dam/Americas/US/PDFs/Consumer/corporate/cost-of-care/179703_CofC_Annual_060316.pdf. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
Genworth Financial. Beyond Dollars 2015. Genworth Financial, 2016. Available at https://pro.genworth.com/riiproweb/productinfo/pdf/157453C.pdf. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
Genworth Financial. Compare Long Term Care Costs Across the United States. Genworth Financial, 2016. Available at https://www.genworth.com/about-us/industry-expertise/cost-of-care.html. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
Genworth Financial. Summary of 2016 Survey Findings. Genworth Financial, 2016. Available at https://www.genworth.com/dam/Americas/US/PDFs/Consumer/corporate/131168_050516.pdf. Retrieved July 11, 2016.