As owner of a home care agency it is my job to do more than just provide care. I am always considering care from several perspectives. As steward of my business I must always think of “Burden of Care”, the concept now accepted to describe the related physical, emotional, social and financial complications experienced by family caregivers.
I paid close attention to these 2019 updated statistics from the Aging In Place resource portal because they will directly and indirectly impact how I serve and support my clients in the coming year.
* In the past five years, over 40 million family caregivers provided 37 billion hours of care for loved ones. Most are women.
*Today one out of 5 adult children is taking care of an older parent.
*85% of family caregivers do not get significant relief from caregiving duties.
*The last phase of life is generally 4.5 to 5 years, representing the most intense time of caregiving.
*50% of family caregivers over age 40 handle medical tasks (changing bandages, inserting catheters or feedings tubes).
*Among this group, not even half receive adequate training to perform these tasks.
*Nearly half of caregivers have trouble balancing work and caregiving, with men more likely to have unsupportive employers.
*75% of caregivers find it stressful, more than half describe it “overwhelming”.
*Depression affects 20 to 40% of all caregivers.
*Alzheimer’s and other mental health conditions are more stressful on caregivers than dealing with physical ailments, putting these caregivers at a higher risk for developing their own medical issues.
While 9 out of 10 caregivers surveyed say caring for a loved one is “worthwhile”, here is how I interpret these statistics: family caregiving is only going to escalate in the coming years.
As caregivers find themselves in stages of loss, grief, anguish, isolation, and other emotions, we must simply have better plans for understanding and supporting their Burden of Care.
If we do not they may well stop daring to care.
The second way I consider caregiving is by constantly evaluating my own “bench” strength of caregivers. Not only do we need more caregivers to take care of our aging population, but these trained “angels” going into the homes and lives of elders must be the best possible fit.
Caregivers are not inter-changeable body parts dispatched one day to oversee the needs of Mr. Smith and his complex Parkinson’s diagnosis and the next afternoon do meal prep for Mrs. Jones. These scenarios don’t work for either party because great care requires continuity of plan and personality.
A good home care plan is designed to ease the Burden of Care through strategic and focused caregiving. A GREAT home care plan also connects the right caregiver with the right elder and need.
Here is where we listen and learn about family caregiver issues, stresses and emotions, the isolation and challenges they face and how we can both validate and relieve them.
We accomplish this through a variety of solutions that may include caregiver education and training, or by simplifying and reducing routines at home, and in creating systems and intelligent shortcuts for getting tasks accomplished.
A great customized care plan supporting Burden of Care issues might include bringing in other family members to help, increasing the time away of the primary family caregiver, and employing adaptive equipment, technologies and communications to simplify regimens.
A great customized care plan is imaginative and thinks outside the lines helping families find community resources and tap into community based programs (Medicare or Medicaid advice, meals, social work support) or other activities (church, synagogue, Council on Aging, etc.).
Burden of Care cannot be addressed unless it is assessed. This is a difficult conversation and is as much art as science. With the eye always on the prize: keeping elders safe, engaged, involved and joyful we help our family caregivers understand it is OK to need help, and how best to get and use resources.
The third way I consider caregiving is as its cheerleader.
I know for a fact that caregiving can be an incredibly rewarding career; a second or even third career. I have seen raw candidates with nothing but big hearts come to a job fair and leave signed up for one of our HHA (Home Health Aid) or advanced specialized trainings. I know for a fact that we can teach all there is available to learn today about care for frail elders, those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia or Parkinson’s and and how to administer highly personal care to our oldest of old.
The fact is skills training is the easier part of caregiving and should never deter anyone from daring to care.
As cheerleader I know my caregivers have very cool and satisfying experiences. They visit elders in their homes wherever “home” may be. They often play roles beyond merely caregiver - confidant, friend, advocate to name a few. Those in our care may need companionship, help with meal prep or scores of other tasks that family members are unable to provide due to any number of reasons.
If you are considering a potential career after retirement, are pulled by the powerful opportunity to feel good while doing good, or motivated to churn a current situation for a whole new experience, will you dare to care?
If so, I welcome your call as would any agency. Like a family caregiver - you are needed, you are cheered, you are respected.
About Mark Friedman: Mark Friedman is the Owner of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore. Passionate about seniors and healthcare, the goal of his agency is to set a new standard in home care in Massachusetts. First by delivering an exceptional home care experience in a combination of highly trained and high-touch caregivers. And secondly by becoming a significant connection for elders to resources and services in the 75 communities his company serves.