Lois, 58 years of age, always knew she wasn't that great with hands-on caregiving. She convinced herself that she was a caretaker, not a caregiver. Caretaker meaning she would plan, organize and make sure proper caregiving was being done. Now she founds herself in a caregiving position and there are tough times. Lois' mom and stepfather are not unique to wanting to stay in their own homes.
"Research shows that as people age, they prefer to continue living independently, preferably in their own homes. While adult children often worry about their parent's situation, it can be difficult to know if parents really need, or want, help from their children."
Surveys and studies show that depression is a major problem with full-time informal caregivers. This is typically due to stress and fatigue as well as social isolation from family and friends. If allowed to go on too long, the caregiver can sometimes break down and may end up needing long-term care as well.
A typical pattern may unfold as follows:
• 1 to 18 months--the caregiver is confident, has everything under control and is coping well. Other friends and family are lending support.
• 20 to 36 months--the caregiver is taking medication to sleep and control mood swings. Outside help dwindles away and except for trips to the store or doctor, the caregiver has severed most social contacts. The caregiver feels alone and helpless.
• 38 to 50 months--Besides needing tranquilizers or antidepressants, the caregiver's physical health is beginning to deteriorate. Lack of focus and sheer fatigue cloud judgment and the caregiver is often unable to make rational decisions or ask for help. It is often at this stage that family or friends intercede and find other solutions for care. This may include respite care, hiring home health aides or putting the disabled in a facility. Without intervention, the caregiver may become a candidate for long-term care as well.
Roughly 70% of all long term care is provided in the home primarily by a spouse, a daughter or daughter-in-law. Since most informal caregiving is provided without training or counseling, individuals providing such care may not be aware of the inherent financial and emotional challenges.
Are you taking care of a loved one? Do you feel depressed? Read about caregiver stress?
Caregiver stress is the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. It can take many forms. For instance, you may feel:
- Frustrated and angry taking care of someone with dementia who often wanders away or becomes easily upset
- Guilty because you think that you should be able to provide better care, despite all the other things that you have to do
- Lonely because all the time you spend caregiving has hurt your social life
- Exhausted when you go to bed at night
- Caregiver stress appears to affect women more than men. About 75 percent of caregivers who report feeling very strained emotionally, physically, or financially are women.
- Although caregiving can be challenging, it is important to note that it can also have its rewards. It can give you a feeling of giving back to a loved one. It can also make you feel needed and can lead to a stronger relationship with the person receiving care. About half of caregivers report that:
- They appreciate life more as a result of their caregiving experience
- Caregiving has made them feel good about themselves
How can I tell if caregiving is putting too much stress on me?
Caregiving may be putting too much stress on you if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Becoming easily irritated or angered
- Feeling constantly worried
- Often feeling sad
- Frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs
Talk to a counselor, psychologist, or other mental health professional right away if your stress leads you to physically or emotionally harm the person you are caring for. Read the steps to see more about caregiver stress.
Contact http://caregivers.org/ for more information.