Caregiving is really, really hard but it doesn't have to be.
More than 43 million caregivers have provided unpaid care in the past 12 months. Families still provide the great majority of elder care, so most of us will find ourselves in the role of family caregiver at some point.
Family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care. Nearly 1 in 4 caregivers spends 41 hours or more per week providing care. (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2015 study). And, many of these caregivers (approximately 4 out of 10) experience “high burden” situations, with high stress, conflicts, and mental and physical effects. On the other hand, nearly 90% of caregivers say the experience is rewarding.
Our team will share some of the keys to reducing caregiving burden, minimizing strain, and maximizing the rewards. Since the family caregiver role lasts an average of four years, these essential tips help you maintain your best for yourself and your loved ones.
Keeping the Family in Family Caregiver
One of the common refrains we hear from the family caregiver is feeling like a “taskmaster”. They’ve often lost the enjoyment of spending time together. Every visit comes with a list of things to get done. This is natural with all that needs to be accomplished. However, it’s a real shame when these may be our last months or years together.
So, how can we go from taskmaster back to daughter or son?
Consider getting a care management assessment to lay out a plan. This will help with prioritizing. It may also reduce a lot of the anxiety driving you. Just hearing from a professional that you’re doing a good job helps you relax in the role a bit. The care manager will also point out any potential pitfalls and help you get contingency plans into place. Knowing who to call and what to do in a crisis means you don’t always have to be worrying about the “what ifs”. The assessment can also keep you from chasing down options that won’t work for your family and point you in the right direction.
Part of this discussion and planning is figuring out what tasks make more sense to delegate. Being the best family caregiver does NOT mean doing it all yourself. Would a successful company have one worker doing every task, from handling the books to cleaning the office and hiring employees? Some things may be better accomplished by someone else. Outline the different tasks and think of who can help. Talk to siblings, even if they're long distance, about what they can do.
As a matter of fact, having others help may be more comfortable for your loved one too. For example, some elders prefer a trained caregiver to assist with the very personal tasks of bathing and hygiene. And, using a caregiver who knows how to lift, transfer and accommodate a person with challenges is safer for everyone. Similarly, you could spend hundreds of hours researching Medicare, VA benefits and various programs. Wading through paperwork and figuring out what options are available can be a full-time job. Or, you could use the expertise of a care manager to assist with those key tasks. Their experience will save you time, headaches and maybe even money.
Most importantly, delegating allows you to be family member, not just family caregiver. It gives you the time again to visit, chat and feel more fulfilled in all your roles.
Respite Care: Family Caregiver Break Time
Respite means “rest”. And, in the case of respite care, it’s a period of rest or a break for the family caregiver. It might be a weekly (or a few times/week) regular break or on specific occasions. For example, you might bring in respite care services when you’ll be out of town on vacation.
Benefits of Respite Care
- 88% of caregivers agreed that respite allowed their loved one to remain at home
- 98% of caregivers stated that respite made them a better caregiver
- 79.5% of caregivers said respite contributed to the stability of their marriage
- Respite care resulted in fewer hospital admissions for acute medical care
How do I find respite care? And, how can I make sure it goes well?
Respite care can be provided by another family caregiver or by professional providers. Often, a family caregiver hires a home care company to provide respite care in the familiar home environment. Other options include adult day care or a short-term stay at an assisted living or nursing facility. To learn more about respite care, check out our Respite Care 101 video and contact us with any questions or to explore your options.
Regardless of the source of respite care, doing a little preparation will create the best experience for everyone. Click Here to get our Guide to Preparing for Respite Care. Follow the checklist for a stress-free respite experience.