“There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” – Rosalynn Carter
An epidemic is upon us. No it’s not the bird flu, financial crisis, or some terrorist plot – it’s actually much worse…a caregiver crisis. With 10,000 people a day turning 65, the shortage of caregivers has been building for decades to form a perfect storm.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) said that as the U.S. population ages, the number of individuals needing long-term care is projected to double to 27 million by 2050 and that over 70% of Americans who reach age 65 will need some form of long-term care in their lives.
Even though there are very good in-home caregiver organizations out there, the vast majority of long-term care is delivered informally by more than 65.7 million family members. Family members providing care often face negative impacts on their own health, ability to work, and other financial hardships. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current workforce for the in-home caregiver organizations is estimated at nearly 1.8 million, just a tiny fraction of the unpaid family member workforce.
Additionally, the decline of the family size over the past seventy years have contributed to the problem. Prior to the baby boom, the average American family had four children who, when grown, located relatively close to the aging parents.
"With baby boomers now retiring, they’ve had an average of two children of whom really don’t live near their aging parents."
This, coupled with higher divorce rates and more than 58% of households that have both adults working outside of the home, leaves the current caregiver in a precarious state.
As a result of caregiving and the ongoing stress it incurs, many caregivers develop health problems. There is a powerful and well-documented connection between the body and the mind.
Caregivers often experience troublesome feelings such as:
Resentment about demands, real and imagined
Worries, especially about the financial impacts of diseases
Frustration with health care providers and the patient
Exhaustion from balancing caregiving with the competing demands of daily living
Depression as life changes drastically
Helplessness as the reality and enormity of managing caregiver responsibilities impacts your life
Guilt over negative feelings about the patient
Discomfort with reversal of parent-child roles
Anger is common among caregivers and comes from the emotional stress of caring for another
Strong feelings and emotions such as anger, grief, and overwhelming frustration show up as high blood pressure, stomach aches, dizziness, acid reflux, blurred vision, headaches, generalized muscle soreness, sleeplessness, exhaustion, and depression.
Preparing Yourself For The Best
Okay you now know the bad news and the doom-and-gloom statistics, so what can you do about it? Plenty. The more prepared you are to be a caregiver or to know what your caregivers go through on a daily basis, the better you’re going to be in the long run. Here are some tips for improving the quality of caregiver resources:
Get Relief – Sit down and create work shifts for care along with the responsibilities for each shift. You may end up with three shifts – one from 7am to 11am, another from 11am to 5pm and one from 5pm to bedtime. Choose a minimum of at least two or three of these shifts a week to give to another family member in order to give you some respite time. If there are no family members that can give their time, price out the cost of this shift with an in-home caregiver agency or Adult Day Care center and have the other family member’s pick up the cost.
Reduce Stress – During your respite time, remove yourself from the environment completely by doing activities that will promote your physical, emotional, and mental health. Exercising, medical checkups, reconnecting with friends, eating properly are just a few activities that will greatly reduce your stress and anxiety. Also, realizing that nothing lasts forever is a great way to remind yourself that you will get through this most difficult and rewarding time of your life as a caregiver.
Learn From Others – There are many opportunities to learn from other people - remember, there are 65.7 million of you. There are many websites, support groups, and books to help you through this time of your life.
Whether they’ve chosen caregiving as a profession or caregiving has chosen them, the caregiver’s daily commitment and sacrifice are true testaments to the human spirit.
Only you can protect yourself as a caregiver or a person who is cared for now or in the future. If you don’t take the steps right now to prepare, you will have a Caregiver Crisis.