Despite its rewards, serving as a senior’s primary caregiver can be demanding and stressful. Many others are in the same situation. An estimated 44 million Americans — accounting for 21 percent of all U.S. households — regularly care for an elderly relative or friend. Family and friends provide an estimated 80 percent of senior care.
This reason alone can account for the many distressed phone calls professionals in the elder care field get from family and friends of seniors. The resources that are available are already stretched to the limit. There is a national caregiver shortage that requires companies to work even harder to staff shifts for caregivers.
Stanford Study on Caregiver Well-being
Being a caregiver can take a toll. Bathing and dressing a senior, cooking for them, keeping track of their prescriptions, finances and medical appointments, helping them move without falling – these are just some of the tasks that caregivers take on every day. For many, these tasks can be accomplished over a few hours each day, around mealtimes or as they tend to other tasks. But for a significant and growing portion, being a caregiver becomes a 24/7 job that comes with few, if any breaks.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there were more than 46 million Americans 65 or older in 2016. With the aging of the baby boomer generation, those ranks will swell, doubling to over 98 million by the year 2060, making up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population from 15 percent today. Meanwhile, AARP estimates that 39.8 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult in 2014 and 2015, with nearly half of those caregivers looking after someone who was 75 or older. Additionally, 10 percent of those caregivers were looking after a spouse, and 1-in-10 were 75 or older themselves.
In conjunction with Comfort Keepers, Stanford performed the study on The Varied Emotional Experience of Family Caregivers reflecting the fact that family caregivers that take care of a mildly ill family member actually get satisfaction from the task however, family members that face taking care of a seriously ill family member don’t fare as well.
As a collaborator in this research study, we reached out to the family members and decision-makers of approximately 2,000 Comfort Keepers clients to request they participate in the study. When we relayed the nature of the questions that would be asked, not only did many agree to be in the survey, but several replied with gratitude, thanking us for simply acknowledging the difficulty that family caregivers face. “Thank you for looking into this,” said one. “Thank you for asking the question,” said another.
What was particularly exciting was the collaboration of three different organizations – Comfort Keepers, Clear Care, and the Stanford Center on Longevity/Stanford University Psychology Department, all trying to understand and solve for the challenges of family caregivers who are charged with the responsibility of decision-making and caring for seniors. The success of this study gives us at Comfort Keepers hope that more and similar research will be conducted in the future that can help society meet the challenges of a changing population. In the meantime, we will continue to be there with help for the family caregiver and their senior loved one.
As quantified by the survey and qualified in our interactions, family caregivers are at risk of being overwhelmed by the responsibilities they face. As their ranks grow, it’s critical that we understand their position and find solutions that can help them look after their own emotional well-being. Only by helping them will we be able to help the seniors they care for. Read on for potential solutions to this growing challenge our family caregivers face.
A Tool for Family Caregivers
Comfort Keepers has developed a guide called Caring for You Caring for Others that you can provide to the people you serve as a Family Caregiver. This resource-rich guide was created to help caregivers, family, and friends care for an aging loved one. Caregiver well-being is such an important topic we also devoted a blog to help family caregivers with some of the issues. Visit our blog, 'Assisting Those Who Care for Others' to find the link to download the guide.
Respite Care is The Key to Long Term Success
No matter how much someone loves the person they are caring for, they need regular breaks from caregiving. Nonstop caregiving will drain their energy and take a toll on their physical, mental and emotional health. If they not do it for themselves, please work with families to consider that respite care also benefits the person they are caring for. After a break, the family caregiver is able to return refreshed and more effective. Respite could be just a day away with friends, an afternoon of personal errands, an exercise break, or it could be a vacation.
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