Professional caregivers aren’t the only ones providing elder care, as more and more family caregivers – usually the adult child – are taking on senior care responsibilities of caring for an aging parent or loved one. In fact, according to the AARP and “Caregiving in the U.S. 2009,” a National Alliance for Caregiving report, “43.5 million people age 18 and older are providing unpaid care for others age 50+. That number amounts to 19 percent of all American adults!”
But family caregivers are going beyond just stopping over to visit mom and dad at home and the responsibilities can mount. The report indicates that those who care for an older family member are more likely to report poor health themselves and stress and caregiver burnout are all too common. But, on top of that, another element that can further complicate these situations is employment. According to the study, three of four caregivers work full-time while providing an average of 20 hours per week of assistance. BrightStar Care resident RN Sharon Roth Maguire recently spoke with the New York Times about “Assessing the Cost of Caring for an Aging Loved One” and touched on this very subject: “You take time away from work to make doctor calls, check on Mom or Dad, leave early to take them to a doctor’s appointment or stop by the pharmacy. You’re not focused, because you’re really focused on what’s going on with your loved one at home.”
Respite and Support Are Key for Family Caregiver Balance
So how are these family caregivers keeping everything balanced? While some people may not have the answer, we do have some key considerations for how family caregivers can find at least some relief:
- Rally the support of other family members
Organize a family meeting to discuss your loved one’s evolving needs. If you have other family members who live close by, maybe they’d be willing to share in the responsibilities on days you are unavailable. This is also a great way to fill everyone in on your loved one’s condition(s), as sometimes families don’t readily discuss these difficult but important topics. You can even use CareTogether, a free, private online platform, to create a shared calendar for everyone to get on the same page and have visibility to key appointments, etc.
- Find a professional agency to provide respite care services
Asking for help, even if it’s not from other family members, can make a big impact, not only on your workload but also on your mental health. Even if you’re not sure what your loved one might need, you can contact your local BrightStar Care office and schedule a no-obligation personal consultation to find out more about your loved one and talk to you about their needs. From 1 hour to 24, BrightStar’s team can be there in the times when you can’t.
- Ask about the Family and Medical Leave Act
The relentless demands can drive you to leave your job, at least temporarily, but that has financial repercussions beyond the short-term loss of wages. The Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires certain types of employers to grant personal leave, doesn’t apply to all workers, and, while the leave is unpaid, it could help free up some of your time to focus on your loved one’s needs without feeling like you are jeopardizing your work responsibilities.
For more information and resources in your area, including the possibility of family caregiver support groups, be sure to contact your local BrightStar Care office.