Tag Archives: caregiver stress

Identifying as a Caregiver

Currently in the United States, over 44 million Americans spend on average 20 hours per week caring for a loved one whether it’s a family member or a close friend. This care ranges from doing a few helpful things like preparing an extra meal or helping with shopping and house cleaning to more personal chores like bathing, toileting, dispensing medications and helping with medical matters. According to AARP, it’s family caregivers who provide over 75% of the unpaid “informal” care to those who need it. This amounts to an incredible 37 billion hours of unpaid care. For many caregivers the journey to caregiving is slow and gradual as they take on more and more of the daily responsibilities of helping a loved one age comfortably in their own home. For others, the route to “caregiver” happens in a tragic instant after their loved one faces a medical crisis. The average caregiver provides personal care and performs household maintenance chores for at least twelve hours a week for an average of 4.3 years. Despite all these figures, caregivers don’t see themselves as such. They view themselves as daughters or sons helping out or temporarily stepping in after some crisis. They’re doing what’s considered to be the norm as a loving family member. Yet this is all done despite the fact that they are juggling their own personal family life and a job. They can be certain of one thing – the caregiving doesn’t get easier. It generally gets more complicated and takes up more and more of their limited time. Eventually there is a price to be paid. The ever-growing burden of caregiving often results in stress related illness, emotional or mental health problems, and stressed family relations. For these reasons, it’s important for family caregivers to identify themselves as such. If you don’t think of yourself as a “caregiver”, you probably won’t take the next step of looking for support and information to help you along your journey. Fortunately, help is out there. A good starting point would be a family meeting to identify your loved ones needs and problems and to develop a plan for sharing responsibilities. There are many caregiver support groups, some of them on-line, that offer educational information and emotional support. You can connect with others who are also dealing with the same issues that you are facing. Adult respite care is available whether through a senior center or a home care agency. This would give you a temporary mental and physical break. So recognize your role and realize you are not alone and know that YOU ARE A CAREGIVER. Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Caring For The Caregiver

According to a report by Emblem Health, there are close to sixty six million caregivers in the United States. That means almost one in every three people provides personal care to a loved one or family member. Typically a caregiver’s job includes helping with transportation, grocery shopping, preparing meals, helping with medication, and doing housework. Personal care often includes helping their loved one get dressed, helping with a bath or shower, or help with getting to and from the toilet. The burden of providing all this care usually falls to family members who also have jobs to go to, their own homes and families to take care of, and often their own personal health issues to deal with. The stresses of dealing with all of these responsibilities can in fact turn a caregiver into a patient in need of help. It’s important for caregivers to realize that they must care for themselves and take steps to maintain their own health and well being if they want to be effective in caring for their loved one.

The most effective things a caregiver can do to help their own well-being is first, to accept the fact that they are human and cannot fix everything and second, take a break. A caregiver is not a miracle worker and needs to be realistic about what can be accomplished. Taking a break from caregiving responsibilities relieves caregiver stress and improves the ability to provide care. A break can be something as simple as taking some time to read a book or take a walk or getting some extra scheduled down time. Scheduling down time can be a few hours off or even better, getting regularly scheduled respite care. The respite care may involve using adult day care services for your loved one or regularly scheduling a home health care aide to take care of some of the responsibilities. The bottom line is that its important that the caregiver attends to their own personal health and well being without feeling guilty about getting some much needed help. What steps have you taken to care for the caregiver? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Getting Family On Board

Being a caregiver for an aging friend or relative can often be a time consuming and daunting job. At least forty two percent of family caregivers spend more than thirty hours a week providing care and seventy six percent of family caregivers say they don’t receive help from other family members. This can make an already tiring job even more stressful not to mention the natural resentment that builds when you feel your siblings are leaving you alone to handle everything. Family dynamics can often play a part in determining who the primary caregiver is. According to the National Association of Geriatric Case Managers, in 99.9% of families, only one sibling takes on the responsibilities of providing care and it’s usually based on geography….the closer you live to mom and dad, the more likely you’ll be the one filling the role of caregiver. Other factors include your work and family situations, your own finances, and your marital status. Very often the problem of getting help from uninvolved siblings can be traced to an issue with communication. Once you take on the role of caregiver, the natural progression of things results in you taking on more and more work as your loved one ages and their health declines. If you just go about your daily tasks and don’t let your siblings know of any changes in your loved one’s condition over time, your siblings may just assume everything is fine and you don’t need any help. So they don’t offer any. It’s best to have a family meeting early in your journey to caregiving….before you are burned out and resentful. It would allow you to openly discuss what the future may hold and would allow family members to identify what their contributions to caregiving would be. Different family members have different talents and different ideas of what “help” means. It would also allow siblings the chance to indicate if there are any personal issues no one is aware of that may limit how much they can help. It’s important to be specific when talking about what would be helpful to you — general pleas for help are just too vague. If you need someone to drive your loved one to appointments or help with the grocery shopping, be clear about it. Don’t assume anyone instinctively knows what needs to be done. It’s important to be honest and try to understand differing points of view while keeping lines of communication open with your siblings. If you get to the point where you aren’t communicating with each other, your loved one is the person who will end up suffering the most. If siblings remain unresponsive or unhelpful, despite your best efforts to communicate with them, consider other options for getting help. Check into getting some in-home services and arranging some respite care. If you allow yourself to get burned out, you won’t be able to help your loved one. How have you gotten siblings on board with caring for your loved one? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Saying “No” to Caregiving

According to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, there are over 44 million unpaid caregivers taking care of elders or someone with disabilities. Statistics show that the majority of care is provided by a family member with the primary caregiver being the youngest unmarried daughter or the oldest son. The closer the child lives to their parent, the more likely they are to become responsible for their parent’s welfare. If there are no local family members, friends often become caregivers. The path to becoming a caregiver can be slow with the caregiver gradually taking on more and more of the responsibility of caring for a parent as they age, or it can be sudden if a parent has a health crisis or suddenly becomes incapacitated. In both cases, neither the parent nor their child realizes there is a caregiver relationship going on. The ongoing care is basically born from a desire to keep a loved one safe and to provide the best care possible.

Very often, it’s not until the caregiver starts developing “symptoms” that they realize they are fully engulfed in their role as caregiver and are in fact dealing with the stress of that role. Some of the symptoms of caregiver stress include anger, fatigue, poor sleep or health, irritability, and depression. The caregiver may feel hopeless, thinking there’s no light at the end of the tunnel and may in fact want to avoid their loved one. If you are losing yourself to the job of caregiving, it may be time to say “no”. Even though you may be overwhelmed, that’s a pretty hard thing to do. After all, you’ve come to believe that only you can do the best for your parent. In fact, that’s not true. You need to realize and accept that you can’t fix everything that is wrong and there are limits to what you can do. Becoming a martyr helps no one. Your role as a primary caregiver is critical enough that your poor health will surely put your elder at risk also. It’s important to decide what’s reasonable for you to do and to assess other aspects of your personal life and see where your role as caregiver fits in. Set boundaries for your role and get help before you reach a breaking point. Getting help doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a caregiver or left a parent to fend for themselves. It just means that something has to change so that you can continue to be useful to the one you love. Have you had to say “no” as a caregiver? Please share your thoughts below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com.

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Surviving The Holidays

If you are caring for an elderly parent or a relative who can’t live on his or her own, you’ll soon been entering the most stressful time of the year for you. The traditional holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year simply compounds your already stressful life in a number of ways. You’re already trying to keep the delicate balance between your job, your family life with its demanding schedule, and your efforts to properly care for your loved one. Add to this mix all the holiday preparations, family get togethers, and dicey winter weather, and you’ve got the perfect combination for caregiver stress. With some planning you can increase your chances of surviving or even enjoying the holidays.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is accept the fact that the holidays needn’t follow the same cookie cutter pattern every year. Different is okay. Endless days of cooking and baking followed by hours and hours of gift buying excursions aren’t necessary. Take some short cuts – shop online, order out, and enlist the help of family and friends. You don’t have to accept every holiday invitation you receive nor do you have to invite a massive crowd to family gatherings. Sometimes just dealing with family dynamics during gatherings can be enough to wear you down. There may be those who are long on criticizing what you do as a caregiver but short on actually offering any help. If so, take the opportunity to ask for help and be specific about what would be helpful to you. You may be surprised with a cooperative response. Don’t be shy about getting family members on board.
There are practical things you can do to make the season run more smoothly. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Cut back on how much holiday decorating you’ve traditionally done. Keep gatherings at a smaller, more manageable scale, and suggest potluck meals with everyone bringing a dish. Try to stay organized by keeping a to-do list to help you stay in control of your time. Adjust the time of day gatherings are held to accommodate what works well for your loved one. Don’t neglect yourself. Eat well and get enough sleep. Try to fit in some “me-time” so you can de-stress. Use the resources that are out there whether you call on family and friends or enlist the aid of an in-home agency. Give yourself a break. After all, caregivers deserve a holiday too. Do you have any tips for surviving the holidays? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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When It’s Time for Home Care

There are a lot of guides available to help you decide if someone you care about has reached the point of needing outside help. If you do a web search for “time for home care”, an incredible list of sites appears with all kinds of signs to look for in your aging parent or loved one that will signal their need for help with daily living. These clues include poor personal hygiene, difficulty managing daily living activities such as housework and grocery shopping, missed appointments, and problems taking medications as prescribed. Although these clues are certainly important when deciding if you should look to professional help for your loved one, a consideration that is often overlooked is YOU.

If you’ve been your loved one’s primary caregiver, you need to assess your own condition also. According to the Family Caregiving Alliance there are over 44 million unpaid caregivers in America and they are definitely paying a price. The effects of being a caregiver are both psychological and physical. The strain of caring for a friend or relative who is frail or elderly causes significant clinical symptoms of depression in 40%-70% of all unpaid caregivers. Take some time to think about yourself. Do you feel stressed all the time? Do you feel frustrated, angry or hopelessly drained at the end of the day? Are you no longer in control of your own life? Are you becoming more isolated and do you continue to maintain social contact with friends and relatives … when did you last have some “me time”? Are all the hours of your day filled with obligations to your job, your family, and your loved one?

How are you doing physically? The stress felt caring for someone long term has been linked to elevated blood pressure, a compromised immune system, and heart disease. Is your blood pressure up? Do you seem to catch every cold or bug that comes your way? Caregivers typically don’t have time to take care of their own health needs. Do you get regular checkups with your doctor and your dentist? Do you take the time to prepare nutritious meals for yourself or to get some exercise? Do you have insomnia or stomach complaints? Do you actually feel guilty if on some rare occasion you take the time to enjoy a former hobby or interest?

Be careful not to miss the signs of needing help, both in your loved one and most importantly in yourself. Don’t wait for a crisis to happen with the one you care for or with yourself. After all, the best way to help your loved one is to make sure you are at your best. It may be time to get some help. How did you know it was time to get professional help? Share below and vist us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Hiring a Caregiver Privately?

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 65.7 million Americans provide informal care for a family member or loved one. Most of us come by the role of caregiver gradually. We start by “helping out” when we notice a parent or loved one is having some difficulty taking care of some routine tasks they once managed well. In time our list of responsibilities gets longer and our loved one needs much more help. And then it happens….we see there is so much more to do than we have hours in the day for. Perhaps there’s been a medical crisis or an accident. We realize some outside help is needed.

Once you’ve made the decision to get help, it’s easy to believe all you have to do is hire someone. If you choose to hire someone directly to care for your loved one be sure you know what goes with your new role as employer. This means that now you have switched jobs from “caregiver” to “accountant” because you will now have to take care of payroll and tax requirements since the IRS views you as the caregiver’s employer. According to foxbusiness.com, if the caregiver you hire earns more than $1000 a quarter or over $1900 a year, you’ll have to file payroll taxes including Social Security and Medicare taxes, Federal Unemployment Tax, state unemployment and disability insurance taxes levied on the employer, and advance payments of the earned income credit if your employee is eligible. These thresholds and figures may change yearly so you will need to verify them every year. You also have to know what taxes your employee has to pay and will have to provide a Form W2 to your employee by January 31st of every year. In addition, you’ll need to pay for worker’s compensation and disability insurance in case your caregiver gets hurt while caring for your loved one.

If the caregiver you hire claims to be working as an “independent contractor” and no money should be withheld for any taxes, they are wrong. According to the IRS an independent contractor has total control over their work hours, their responsibilities, and schedules. This does not apply to your employee because the caregiver will be providing the services you want on the schedule and terms you set. Failure on your part to fulfill your accounting duties as the employer of a caregiver will alert the IRS, set you up for an audit, and can even result in compromising your own personal taxes. You’ll have to pay back the unpaid taxes along with interest and possible penalties. Be certain you make the correct decision when hiring a caregiver. Are you prepared to be an accountant in addition to dealing with all the work and responsibility of caring for a loved one? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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It’s All About “Me”

The holiday season is finally in full swing and before your know it, we’ll be ushering in the New Year. We’ll be looking at the past year and promising ourselves that this new year will be different. We’ll think of all the things that went wrong and come up with a nice list of changes for the coming year that will make everything so much better. Sound familiar? As caregivers, it’s easy to blame ourselves for anything that might have gone wrong while we cared for our loved one. Did we put our loved one first? Were we attentive to their needs?

I’m sure the list of New Year resolutions will look something like this:
#1. I will get all the sleep and rest I need.
#2. I will do all I can to have a healthy lifestyle.
#3. I’ll ask for and accept all the help I can get.
#4. I will do something every day to de-stress a bit.
#5. I promise to keep up a social life.
#6. I will communicate and share with others who are going through the same experiences I am.
#7. I will use respite care whenever I can.
#8. I will learn all I can about my loved one’s condition.

After looking at all of these resolutions, you can see a common thread. They can all be replaced with an attitude adjustment. As caregivers, we need to shift our concerns to caring for ourselves! Somehow it seems wrong to even say that. We’ve spent an awful lot of time putting someone else’s needs ahead of our own and just thinking about yourself seems so selfish. The thing to remember is that if we aren’t in good shape physically and emotionally, we’ll be ineffective as caregivers and end up being useless to those we care for. This year my goal is to wake up every morning and remind myself that it’s all about me. What resolutions are you making for the new year? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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A Caregiver’s Holiday

Well, we’ve reached that wonderful time of year fondly known as the “holiday season”. This year it began on October 31st. I know….that was Halloween, but all the stores had their Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations up already. Of course, these will be followed by Kwanza and then New Year’s Day will mark the end of the season. If you are a caregiver, this can be a time of very mixed emotions. We all have in the back of our minds a Norman Rockwell memory of holiday seasons past. We remember huge family gatherings, laughter, a table covered with wonderful family favorite dishes, and gifts galore. There were days filled with cooking and baking, shopping for gifts, and decorating our homes. But things are different now. Now a great portion of your time is taken up with all the duties of caring for a senior or loved one. Add to that the time your job and caring for your family takes and you quickly find yourself feeling overwhelmed and resenting the holidays. The memories stirred up by holidays make us realize how much life has changed.

Perhaps the only way to get through this time is with a spirit of acceptance. Accept that life is different. There is no right way or wrong way to celebrate a holiday and every holiday season doesn’t have to be the same. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed while you try to keep up old family traditions. Think about what’s really important to you and your family and try to just do those things. Set limits on what you’re willing to do and don’t make too many social commitments.

There are some practical things you can do to make the season run more smoothly. Simplify things. You can cut back on how much decorating you’ve traditionally done. You don’t have to spend days baking every type of cookie under the sun….there are a lot of wonderful bakeries out there and some deliver right to your door. Ask family members for help….maybe they’d like to do some of the holiday cooking or baking. Keep family gatherings at a smaller more manageable scale and suggest a potluck dinner with everyone bringing something. Most importantly, don’t neglect yourself. Do something for yourself to lower the holiday stress level. Use the resources that are out there whether you call on family and friends or enlist an in-home agency and give yourself a much needed break. After all, caregivers deserve a holiday too. As a caregiver, how have you adjusted your holidays? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Long Term Care Commission – Part 2

As promised, the Long Term Care Commission has finally made its recommendations. As the members of the baby boomer generation approach retirement age and the number of informal caregivers decreases, this bipartisan commission was charged with coming up with a plan to ensure the availability of long term services and support for people with disabilities and for seniors needing care. According to the commission’s statistics, 70% of seniors over the age of 65 will need some long term care. That’s pretty much most of us.

Although the commission did come up with a list of recommendations, it failed to agree on how to pay for long term care. Among the recommendations was the elimination of the required three day hospital stay that is now needed to make patients eligible for 100 days of skilled nursing care paid for by Medicare. Other recommendations focused on increasing community based care and home care. This included increasing the pay and improving working conditions for paid caregivers who will be in much greater demand as the ranks of informal caregivers decrease. It was also recommended that direct care workers need to have criminal background checks — something that a reputable home care agency does as a part of good business practices anyway.

Despite its recommendations, there was a split along party lines as to how family members would pay for the care. Generally, the Democrats would like to see an expansion of Medicare. With the looming increase in the number of baby boomers, that’s an unsustainable option. In addition, the Republicans tend to see this option as an increase in entitlements. Their solution is the idea of financing long term care through private options such as long term care insurance. This would also include tax advantages for those who purchase long term care insurance policies. That would require an expansion of the long term insurance market which over the last decade has seen a major drop in the number of policy providers.

The bottom line is that for the foreseeable future, nothing much will change. If you are an informal (ie. unpaid) caregiver, don’t hold your breath waiting for relief. The family is and will remain the first line of care as family members struggle with the expenses of caring for their loved ones. The next affordable option for care is the use of a home care agency, followed by assisted living residences and then the most costly, a nursing home. How are you dealing with the financial crisis of providing long term care for a loved one?
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