Today in the United States over 52 million family members are caring for a spouse or loved one (sometimes around the clock). For the family caregiver the rewards can be great – providing care in the safety and comfort of home brings ease, independence and connection. It may also mean keeping a frail or disabled family member out of a nursing home, or care facility, and the financial burden or loss of autonomy and family connection that may come along with such a choice. However, it can also be a great challenge for family caregivers.
Family caregivers usually value their important role, but are often faced with few options for support or time-off. Seniors At Home commonly sees family caregivers who are totally exhausted with no time for themselves. It’s a problem that is growing. A study by the Commonwealth Fund found that 60% of family caregivers surveyed reported fair or poor health, one or more chronic conditions, or a disability, compared with only 33% of non-caregivers.
Assessing Caregiver Burnout
J. Redwing Keyssar, RN, Director of Palliative Care at Seniors At Home, says that often caregivers don’t recognize the signs of stress and burnout in themselves, having put their own feelings and needs aside for so long in order to care for another.
When starting to complete an in-home care management assessment, Redwing, and the other geriatric specialists at Seniors At Home, ask straightforward questions to family caregivers to get a sense of how they are fairing, “I ask the caregiver, ‘When is the last time you were able to leave your house to have lunch with a friend?’ and ‘How often do you take four hours off to take a walk or run some errands?’”
Seniors At Home can pretty quickly gauge whether the main family caregiver has any time to themselves to rest, unwind and attend to their own needs.
Signs of caregiver burnout include:
- Lowered immunity to disease and infection
- Sleeping problems
In-Home Respite Care Brings Relief
Bringing in respite or “relief” caregivers can be a good option when family members are already stretched with hectic jobs, parenting and other commitments.
Some families may at first resist bringing in a paid caregiver because it may feel suddenly like a “stranger” is in their home, especially if a spouse feels like it is his or her duty to do all the round the clock caregiving.
Helen, happily married for 60 years, called Seniors At Home because she was starting to feel like a prisoner in her own home because of her constant caregiving for her husband, Max.
Initially Max refused outside help, but when the conversation shifted to the care of his wife, he realized that getting help for himself meant also getting daily living help for his wife as well.
At Seniors At Home, caregivers, sometimes called home care aides, are employees (not contractors) and are interviewed, trained and fully screened. They get ongoing education to help them excel at their jobs, including training to support the needs of bedbound clients, dementia care, and caregiving at the end of life.
Sometimes feelings of guilt may come up for a family caregiver, especially for a spouse, if they leave their partner in order to care for themselves. But bringing in help to supplement caregiving (even for a few hours a week) can bring deep relief for both the main family caregiver and the person needing the help.
For Helen and Max, the arrival of a home care aide has been a huge relief and both of them have experienced health improvements. Now Helen can go out for a few hours to meet with friends, see a movie, and have a life outside her home.
Benefits to in-home respite care:
- Gives the caregiver time to rest, relax, pursue favorite activities and avoid isolation, which in turn decreases the negative consequences of stress such as poor health and family conflicts;
- Offers the person being cared for opportunities to socialize with others, and can reduce feelings of helplessness or guilt of being a “burden” to family or spouse.
Keyssar sees the positive benefits of respite care frequently in her work with families and states, “With the help of in-home respite care, family caregivers can take better care of themselves, and in turn, be better able to care for their love one.”
To find out how your family can benefit from a respite caregiver, call us at 844-222-3212 or contact us online.