April 29, 2019

“Family caregivers make up a silent support army — without them, health and social systems within our aging societies would be absolutely overwhelmed.” — Scott Williams, Embracing Carers

America’s population is aging at a rapid clip. In the US, about 10,000 men and women reach retirement age every day. As the “silent generation” and the baby boomers grow older, even more adults are going to ultimately find themselves needing to step in and start providing care for their aging loved ones.

Unpaid family caregivers — sometimes called “informal” caregivers — are family members or friends who look after and provide support to a loved one, such as a spouse or a parent. Family caregivers play an incredibly important role in helping the elderly age safely and remain independent. Every single day, loving family members help out in countless different ways, from assisting their senior loved ones with activities of daily living (ADLs), to driving their family members to doctor’s appointments, to helping their loved ones pay their bills and stay on top of important paperwork.

Family caregivers provide vital help to their aging loved ones but who’s caring for the caregivers?

Family caregivers give up so much to put the needs of their loved ones first. These dedicated and inspiring people deserve support of their own. Respite care is one way for family caregivers to take a much-needed break, and restore their own health, happiness, and peace of mind.

Let’s take a deep look at the state of family caregiving in the US, and explore how respite care and home care can change the picture for the better:

The State of Caregiving in America

Family caregivers make up the backbone of our country’s long-term care services.

According to a report from TIME magazine and findings from the AARP, there are more than 43 million unpaid caregivers in America. That translates to about one of every eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 being responsible for caring directly for an aging parent, according to Pew Research Center.

Per the AARP, caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care — logging more hours than many part-time jobs. According to findings from the AARP, about 80% of informal caregivers provide care to one older adult, and 15% care for at least two. Roughly 15 million caregivers support someone who is experiencing a condition such as Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.

Broadly speaking, the average age of a caregiver is right around 50 years old. In many cases, these adults identify as being part of the “Sandwich Generation,” meaning that they are responsible for providing care for their aging relatives and their younger children, at the same time. In fact, stats from Pew suggest that about half (47%) of all adults in their 40s-50s provide some level of care to their parent aged 65 or older, while simultaneously supporting one or more kids emotionally and financially.

Often, family caregivers are put in a position where they are being pulled in many different directions at once. It can be stressful and tiring to serve as a family caregiver, and many different studies have shown that, over time, giving so much so frequently can take a toll on a caregiver’s personal health and wellbeing.

According to TIME, for instance, a 2017 study “found that nearly half of family caregivers suffer from depression, and 45% did not have time to book or attend their own medical appointments.” That same study also reports that more than half of all unpaid caregivers say that they don’t have time to exercise, and 70% say that they feel tired “most of the time.”

Research cited by Psychology Today sums it up, noting that, for caregivers, “providing daily care meant increased irritability, less time for hobbies or other recreation, and increased emotional stress when taking a parent to the doctor or other appointments.”

In that same vein, AARP research has found that 40% of caregivers “report feeling burdened by their daily chores.” Another sobering study from Stanford University revealed that 40% of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers often suffer more severely from stress-related disorders than those they are caring for.

It’s Time for Caregivers to Get the Support They Need

Family caregivers devote themselves to their duties out of love, dedication, and commitment. Providing support and care to a family member in need is one of the highest acts of selflessness there is.

Above all, however, it is important to remember that you do not have to shoulder all of the weight of caregiving alone.

As a family caregiver, it’s crucial that you take care to protect your own health and peace of mind. You deserve a chance to relax and unwind. You deserve the opportunity to focus on your own health and wellbeing. You deserve time back to travel, to read, to get out into nature.

It is not selfish to get the help you need! In fact, it’s profoundly giving, in the long run. There are no upsides to forcing yourself to suffer burnout and stress. When you give yourself the chance to relax and recharge, you also benefit your loved one.

After some time away, you can return to caregiving with more love, more attention, and improved focus. At the same time, your loved one might truly benefit from getting the opportunity to spend time with a new face  — swapping stories, sharing meals, and going on new adventures.

There is incredible strength in reaching out for help. As a family caregiver, remember that there are countless resources out there, including local support groups, friends and family, and, most importantly, professional companionship and caregiving services, like Companions for Seniors.

The Benefits of Home Care for Family Caregivers

As a family caregiver, getting the chance to rest and recharge could help you regain some of your spark, and, ultimately, your love for caregiving. You deserve a break. Professional caregiving and companionship services can help provide your senior loved one with the support and attention they need, when they need it — giving you back time to enjoy as you see fit, safe in the knowledge that your loved one is being properly cared for and empowered to maintain their independence.

With home care, a companion can spend time with your senior loved one for as much or as little as is necessary, helping provide assistance and company in the safety and comfort of home.

It is a significantly more affordable form of long-term care than other options, while also providing greater stability, freedom, and flexibility to seniors and family caregivers alike.

A caring companion can assist seniors in many different ways, including providing assistance with ADLs, offering driving services, assisting with housekeeping and household chores, and simply acting as a friendly companion with which to chat, play games, or share meals.

About Companions for Seniors

If you have any further questions about the benefits of home care, or want to get the conversation started, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Companions for Seniors. We’re here and happy to be your go-to resource.

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.

While helping seniors maintain a higher quality of life, we also hope to provide greater peace of mind for family caregivers who may need some relief.

We are locally owned in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs. All of our companions are trained and bonded, and can assist your loved one in many different ways, including providing assistance with activities of daily living, meal preparation, housekeeping, transportation services, and more.

From one hour to 24 hours a day, we can be there for you and your loved one. We understand that every situation is unique, so we provide a personalized care plan that’s modified to meet each client’s specific needs. As a client’s needs change, so does our plan of care. In most cases, we can assess your loved one’s needs and start a care plan within a matter of days.

Have any questions? Want to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 866-910-9020, or fill out our contact form right here.