September 3, 2018

Does your mom need a break from watching her mom?

Caring for an older parent or relative is a labor of love. But it’s easy for the role of caregiver to start to feel like a full time job. What can you do to help out someone who spends all of their time and energy giving back to others?

Some Important Facts About Family Caregivers

As the population gets older, more and more people are starting to fill the role of caregiver to an elderly parent or loved one. This is informal caregiving, provided by people who aren’t healthcare professionals.

In fact, in many cases, caregiving may really look like your adult parent taking care of a grandparent, or perhaps your grandmother playing an active role in taking care of her spouse. You may have seen this dynamic play out in your own family. If that’s the case, you wouldn’t be alone.

According to a report from the AARP and the National Alliance for caregiving, about 34 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older every year. A large majority of these caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while about 15% care for two people at once. Among this group, about 15 million family caregivers care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

And these caregivers take on plenty of responsibilities, including assisting with activities of daily living (ADL). This typically means giving rides, helping with meal prep and doing other housework, and assisting a loved one with getting up or laying down. For many caregivers, their list of daily duties is also going to go above and beyond these ADLs, and might involve communicating with healthcare providers on their family member’s behalf, monitoring their health condition, and more.

Now, who’s doing all of this caregiving? Odds are, you likely know one or two caregivers yourself, even if you don’t realize it. The average age for a caregiver is nearly 50 years old, according to the AARP. Of this group, more than 75% of all caregivers are female, according to the Institute on Aging. While men do help shoulder the burden of caring for an aging relative, the fact is that a lot of the work tends to fall to the women of the family. On average, women spend more hours per week providing care than men, and generally handle the most difficult caregiving tasks, like bathing or dressing.

It’s A Lot to Take On Alone

So now that we have a picture of who the average caregiver is, and the amount of work that they take on, it’s easy to see how managing this situation can become difficult over time.

Caregiving can be incredibly rewarding – but it’s also stressful, even in the best of circumstances. Spending so much time caring for a loved one can be tiring and socially isolating. It can be physically demanding, and lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, or anger. All of this is compounded when a caregiver also has to balance giving care with all of the responsibilities of their own life, whether that means staying on top of work, spending time with their own children or grandchildren, or keeping engaged with social activities.

This is all natural – and if you’re seeing signs of caregiver stress in yourself or another family member, you’re not alone! There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It can be hard to shoulder all of the work of caregiving singlehanded.

So now, the big question: If you notice that one of your loved ones, who is acting as a caregiver, is showing signs of stress or burnout, what can you do help?

Ways to Help Out The Caregiver In Your Family

According to AARP data, more than half of all caregivers (57%) report that they do not have a choice about performing their daily tasks. 43% feel that caregiving is their personal responsibility because no one else can do it. And yet 40% of caregivers also report feeling burdened by their daily chores.

So, how can you help your mother, who is exhausted by taking care of her own mother? What can you do for the dad who is giving up all of his free time to drive back and forth to his parent’s house?

Remind them that they are not alone.

For a stressed-out caregiver, being reminded that there is help out there can be a lifesaver. There are many things you can do as a concerned loved one.

For example, there are many support groups and resources out there for caregivers that can help educate your mom or dad, or put them in touch with people who have been in a similar situation.

To help your parent unwind, you could schedule regular times to meet up with them for dinner, or at least chat over the phone. Providing that social support could make a world of difference for your loved one. These meeting can also give you the chance to remind the caregiver to care for themselves, by finding time to meet with a doctor, do some meal prep, or exercise.

And finally, remind the caregiver in your life that there are options out there – and that accepting help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, being realistic about what you can accomplish, and learning to take care of your own needs, is a major sign of strength!

Reaching out for professional help may be the best decision that your family member could ever make – both for themselves, and for the loved one they care for. Getting a chance to rest and recharge could help your parent regain some of their spark, and their love for caregiving.

Meanwhile, their own parent or spouse might benefit from the chance to socialize with a new face, one who is the right fit for their lifestyle and personal care needs. For example, if an elderly relative loves to crochet, imagine them being able to spend time with a caregiver who shares their hobby? What a difference it could make!

If you have a loved one that you believe could benefit from the assistance of a professional caregiver, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the professionals at Companions for Seniors.

Our companions are trained, bonded insured, and can help your family shoulder some of the burden of caring for an aging loved one. We help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support.

Have any questions? Want to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to give us a call, or fill out our contact form available here.