Margot G. Birke
The Role of Family Caregivers
Your loved one’s care does not always take place in hospitals, or nursing homes, or doctor offices, or medical clinics. Most care actually occurs in the home – and that’s a good thing. People are healthier at home and health care costs are reduced.
Family caregivers have the best interests of their loved ones at heart. But caregiving at home can take its toll and it certainly takes a lot of planning. The Nation’s 90 million family caregivers are front and center in providing care every day – enabling their loved ones to stay at home longer where they would most like to be.
It is no secret that most adults would prefer to age in place and stay in their current home and, it is a fact that, family, friends, and neighbors provide 80% of the care seniors need to accomplish just that. Furthermore, two out of every five caregivers are family members with 39% of Americans caring for a loved one who is sick, disabled, or living with the frailties of old age. That percentage has been increasing every year.
Having a family member as a caregiver is an invaluable resource for those aging at home. Family caregivers are the only ones present in all care settings. Elders may have more than one doctor; nurses change shifts; prescriptions may be filled at different pharmacies. But family caregivers are there as full partners with their loved ones through it all. Almost half of family caregivers perform sophisticated medical/nursing tasks as well – such as providing wound care and operating specialized medical equipment and managing medications for their loved ones. Men are now almost as likely to be family caregivers as women (37% of men; 40% of women) and even 36% of younger Americans between ages 18 and 29 have been reported as a family caregiver.
Being a family caregiver can take its toll on the caregivers and their families. Many families make major changes to their home life as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. Some families have to tighten their belts at home to pay for out-of-pocket caregiving costs. And many more have to make home alterations to ensure safety, security, and cleanliness for their loved ones.
It is important to recognize the sacrifices family caregivers make and make resources available to family caregivers for support. Some of the top tips for family caregivers to remember are highlighted below, with additional links attached with more information:
Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors and your loved ones.
Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks
Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
Make sure legal documents are in order.
Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!