- Caregiving statistics from Caregiver.org:
- ~43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
- ~34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. [NAC and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
- 82% of caregivers care for one other adult, 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults. [NAC and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
- ~15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone with dementia. [Alzheimer’s Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.
Although this system of unpaid caregivers and their reduction of healthcare costs sounds appealing at first glance, the physical and mental strains on the caregiver are not without a negative repercussions.The care responsibilities fall on those who are not necessarily ready, having highly dependent children of their own to care for. The health and quality of life of the caregiver suffer, as well as, the loved one being cared for. The negative impact this system has on both caregivers and seniors should lead us to question the sustainability of such a system. Caregiver issues arise when caregivers juggle what are often full time care jobs with other full or part time jobs. These issues are primarily health but can also involve family problems. As the baby boomer generation ages, their adult children, who are caring for young families of their own, accept many additional hours of caring for their elderly parents. And since families are prone to spread across the U.S. as they search for jobs, many seniors rely on just one of their children to accept all of the care responsibilities. This is usually the closest child in proximity and relationally. Care hours multiple as needs increase. Whether it’s cleaning their home, preparing meals, keeping up with their bills, or even hygiene issues, these needs cannot be ignored. The responsibilities pile up forcing unhealthy levels of stress and physical strain on the overloaded caregiver.
Signs that a caregiver has taken on too much include:
- Irritability. If a caregiver is constantly irritable and easily angered, even when the current situation doesn’t warrant it, it may be a sign of overload. When a caregiver tries to juggle too much with too little time and too little sleep, their own attitude reflects the overload. This irritability causes family tension and an unpleasant environment.
- Sickness. Another sign of overload, is a decreased immune system. Not sleeping enough or paying attention to diet leads to lowered immune system and increased susceptibility to viruses and bugs.
- Constant stress. Caregivers don’t often have the time to exercise and healthily relieve the stress that builds up in a naturally stressful job. That stress builds up and becomes a constant, unwelcome companion. Exercise for a caregiver is vital to maintaining energy levels and dealing with tiresome and trying situations.
- Things left undone. Duties left by the wayside indicates caregiver overload. A single caregiver simply can’t accomplish all of the care needs while taking care of their responsibilities at home. The care will slowly diminish in quality as time goes on.
- Plan ahead. Well before the possibility of a parent needing significant help, a plan should be created. Having a plan in place will relieve the stress of planning care in the midst of a need. These plans will take into account location of family and different ways each member can contribute.
- Prioritize responsibilities. For the caregiver in the midst of serving, it’s important to focus on main responsibilities. Are you taking care of the things in your home or neglecting those to care for an aging parent? Of course, no one wants to let things go but it could simply indicate a lack of intentional planning. If your parents need help meal planning, would it be more effective spending a Sunday afternoon making and freezing meals for them for the week rather than visiting their kitchen every evening to prepare dinner?
- Delegate. Often one family member initiative in offering assistance. The tasks generally fall to him or her out of default. This is a dangerous pattern since other family members may feel like everything is taken of when, in reality, the one family member over overloaded.
- Hire Professional Help. Sometimes it’s just not possible to give your parents the attention they need yourself. Even if they’re resistant to others in their home, professional caregivers are worth looking into. Many seniors grow to enjoy and even look forward to the company of another individuals. They tend to get used to the caregiver’s routine quickly. Companies like 1776 Senior Care offer a wide variety of services that ease the burden of care.