According to a 2015 report on caregivers in the United States by the AARP, a total of 43.5 million adults provide unpaid care to adults and children. Out of these, only 34.2 million are registered as professional caregivers. This makes 18.2 percent of people who have work for free. Whereas if they were trained to be professional caregivers; they would contribute $375 million to the healthcare industry and would have the education necessary to make quick decisions.
Data shows that caregivers spend 20 hours per week on average providing this care to their loved ones, with around 13 percent completing 40 hours or more. They are the foundation of long-term care for their family member. And the problem is; they’re not getting any help.
Instead, this percentage of the population provides care for their disabled, aged or chronically ill family members and loved ones without any respite. Family caregivers get no relief, whether it’s financial or emotional. They balance their budget, their lives and their time, all the while taking care of another person. And that has taken its toll an alarming number of people.
Caregiver Health Statistics
Aside from being ill-prepared for this role, a substantial number of caregivers are suffering from poor health themselves. Many suffer from some sort of physical health issue and are in no condition to take care of a frail or disabled relative.
Not to mention that because of the somber nature of the job, many caregivers end up suffering from mental and emotional health problems as well. Various studies show that more caregivers are now suffering from burnouts, depressive symptoms and anxiety.
40%-70% of them have displayed clinical symptoms of depression and anxiety and meet the diagnostic criteria for depression as well. That, paired with the constant demands of the job, is pushing many of them over the edge and worsening their health.
Lesser Known Problems of Being a Caregiver
A caregiver – by nature – is someone who wants to help the person get better. But in some cases (terminal cases especially), these caregivers suffer from high levels of stress because they are not able to provide care to make them feel better. As a result, they feel angry, frustrated, guilty and helpless and are far less self-accepting than non-caregivers.
They also feel exhausted and suffer from a loss of self-esteem and chronic stress, which in turn affects their verbal IQ, short-term memory and attention span.
Tackling Caregiver Stress – How Caregivers Care for Themselves
· Be Physically Strong
Do not give in to your urges to relieve stress such as drinking alcohol or overeating. If you feel like stress is driving you to do something, take time out of your day and instead, have a well-balanced meal. Or take a nap. If you don’t have time during the day, exercise at night then take a shower and go to sleep. Find some way to spend that extra energy. If you know you’re suffering through depression, go to a therapist. Focus on your health.
· Connect with People
Join caregiver support forums, attend seminars and read books on caregiving to learn how other people manage their lives. Learn from them and find emotional support. You need to meet people who understand the truth about how you manage things. And you need formal training so you’re better equipped to help your loved ones.
· Do not be Ashamed of Your Feelings
There’s no use bottling up your feelings. It’s quite normal to feel frustrated, angry or helpless when taking care of your loved one, especially if they don’t realize you’re helping them (this usually happens with patients with Dementia or Alzheimer’s). Share these feelings with other caregivers. Talk to a professional counselor or contact your caregiver support forum.
· Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
As the primary caregiver, you have the right to demand other family members and loved ones to help as well. Explain to them that you need to take a break, and do not feel guilty. Make a list of all things that need to be done and ask others to pitch in. Even if someone lives faraway, they can take time out of their day to visit once.
· Relax Your Body
You feel your body release tension when you lie down at night? Give yourself that relaxation during the day by sitting back and reading for a bit, or taking a walk or listening to music. Try yoga or meditation, or try some breathing exercises. If you follow a certain faith, praying can give you peace of mind as well.
· Stay Organized
Calendars, to-do lists, reminders on your phone – all are great organizational tools that help you systematize your priorities. Always tackle the harder tasks first then do the rest as the day goes on. Promise yourself to finish your lists and objectives by midnight, or before you go to sleep each day.
· Don’t Let Your Negativity Overwhelm You
You will feel angry. You will feel neglected and you will want to stop caring. But that will only do more harm than good. If there is something to be done, hold a family meeting and be assertive. Come up with a balanced compromise and get everyone to pitch in. Do not take on all responsibilities by yourself.
Work with “The Global Caregiver”
The Global Caregiver is a caregiving counseling service. We cater to caregivers worldwide who want coaching and guidance to be the best at what they do. We provide counseling services to all – professional, first-time and informal caregivers. Our informational resources and seminars introduce caregivers to different methods of healthcare as well.
If you require our services or want to learn more about the caregiving field, browse our website. Or contact a professional for any specific question you have in mind.