Aging isn't easy. Not for the person who is feeling the effects of the years. Not for their family members.
As a person begins to age, family members are often called on to help with everyday things that their loved one now finds challenging – meal preparation, laundry and housekeeping. Eventually, many people find themselves assisting their loved ones in ways they never expected – like hygiene and grooming – or for diseases and disorders they could never have anticipated.
Senior Solutions at Home understands that caregiving for a loved one can take its toll on caregivers and it can change family dynamics. We also understand that many people find themselves hundreds or thousands of miles away from a loved one who needs care, which can become highly stressful.
If you think you may need help, let us guide you in the process of getting both you and your loved one the assistance you deserve.
Recognizing the Need for Help
It can often be hard to tell when aging is affecting a family member. Don't ignore the warning signs, because small things can add up to a larger challenge incredibly fast. If you notice certain changes in your loved one, it might be time to seek outside help:
- Changes in relationships with family and friends.
- Withdrawal from social interactions.
- Unusual behavior, such as increased agitation, speaking loudly or little talking at all.
- Neglecting personal care, such as hygiene or nutrition.
- Signs of forgetfulness, such as piles of unopened mail, unwashed laundry and scorched or dirty cookware.
- Mismanagement of finances, such as unpaid bills or unusual purchases.
Family Caregiving Facts
According to a recent study by the American Association of Retired People (AARP) and the National Council on Aging (NCA):
- Someone caring for a parent has been doing so for an average of 20 hours a week for four years.
- One in three adult caregivers is also raising a child under the age of 18.
- One in three adult caregivers is helping their family member get dressed or go to the bathroom.
- Nearly two-thirds of adult caregivers take time off during the workday, while 17 percent take a formal leave of absence and 10 percent take early retirement.
- About 70 percent of adult caregivers get help from family members, friends or neighbors.
- About 40 percent rely on help from paid caregivers.
- Someone caring for a spouse spends more than 30 hours a week directly caring for their loved one and is less likely to get help from relatives or friends.
Take Care of Yourself
Studies consistently show that people who provide care to loved ones suffer from higher levels of depression than their non-caregiving peers. In fact, some studies show that as many as half of adult caregivers show signs of depression.
When you're faced with providing care for a loved one, do not set aside your own needs. You are the most important person in the process. If you allow yourself to "burn out", you can no longer care for your loved one and may find that it's hard to take care of yourself.
To avoid the high levels of stress associated with caregiving:
- Monitor your health. Inadequate sleep and high levels of stress can easily take a physical toll. If you find yourself physically or mentally weaker, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
- Set aside a few hours a week of down time outside of the home, maybe lunch with friends or an afternoon at the park.
- Stay connected to others. Do not allow yourself to become isolated from friends or other family members.
- See a counselor to discuss the effects of your newfound role as caregiver.
- Attend caregiver support group meetings.