Ways To Support Caregivers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you will have heard about the global caregiver crisis. An aging population coupled with a lack of caregiving personnel has created the perfect storm that healthcare systems worldwide are being forced to weather with varying degrees of success. If we are being honest, the failures are more apparent than the notable successes.
The crux of the matter is that caregivers are being overburdened by a failing healthcare system that depends on them more and more, without acknowledging their essential contributions, let alone affording them a livable wage or even the respect they so deserve.
Most positive advances in the lot of caregivers have come from their own ranks due to their own initiatives or that of advocacy groups. Institutions such as The Global Caregiver have made strides in creating traction on the issue. They have also been instrumental in helping caregivers worldwide to develop professionally and find jobs with pay that corresponds more accurately with their increased professionalism.

Caregivers need us and our support now more than ever, which is why I thought of giving a short list of ways to support caregivers:

1. Education: most lay people don’t know what caregivers face on a regular basis. Out of sight, out of mind is an accurate way to describe the situation. Getting informed on what caregivers actually do is a good start.

2. Logistics: aside from professional caregivers, the vast majority of caregivers tend to be family members and friends who fulfill this vital role without any outside help.

You can help by trying to fill the gap. Offer transportation, if necessary. Cook or clean to help create some free time. Offer to babysit.

3. Listen: most caregivers tend to be go-it-alone heroes who minimize what they do. The standard response when asked how things are going is “fine.” Don’t fall for it. Dig deeper and allow them to vent their emotions if they want to. This can help them decrease their general stress level. It may also offer you an opportunity to find something constructive to do for them.

4. Contribute: since most caregivers tend to be friends or family that sacrifice their time and their finances to take care of their loved ones, you can help by contributing financially. You could also help finance training and seminars for caregivers. This not only helps by creating a more effective caregiver but it will also help them maximize their personal time as they discover better techniques and time management schedules to effectively care for their charges. Proper training can also reduce the caregiver’s general stress levels as they become more professional and effective in their approach.

Where there are caregivers, there are people who would benefit from understanding and support. Whether they are professional caregivers or otherwise, you can support them by demonstrating that you care by offering your time, financial assistance, or an understanding ear.

Caregiver 101

Being a caregiver is an important role. Without caregivers, people requiring care for Alzheimer disease or general end-of-life care are on their own for vital, common tasks. That being said, caregivers require care, too. It’s a demanding job with extremely varied work conditions and, often, little respect, support, or recognition.

What Do Caregivers Do?

Caregivers are there as a support, as frontline first responders, and as companions to people requiring assistance with daily living. There are countless tasks a caregiver takes on, from shopping for food, cooking, cleaning, and helping their care receiver get dressed and ready for activities, to handling medical appointments and monitoring medications, to dealing with crises and liaising with other members of the caregiving team.

Caregivers do this work because they want to serve those who need assistance. That being said, those employed by for-profit agencies may struggle to find value in their work when they are paid little while people at the top rake in the profits. The rates of home health aides and professional caregivers are in decline, while society faces a critical demand for people who do this work.

What Care Do Caregivers Need?

Supporting caregivers is vital if we want to keep people in the field as the healthcare demands of an aging population grow.

Caregivers need support in the form of training and preparation, especially considering how many people are flung into caregiving not out of choice, but out of necessity as family members face health issues. Caregiving is intensive work which doesn’t always leave time for the professional development that can sustain a caregiver, and give them the confidence and skills to handle any situation.

Caregivers require, and deserve, emotional support too. Caregivers pour themselves out in service of others and may end up burned out and feeling depleted, without the energy or resources to take care of themselves, too. Caregivers may feel overwhelmed, worried, tired, or irritable, and may face physical challenges like headaches and tension, or alcohol or drug abuse.

Peer support from other caregivers, the empowerment that comes from having a supportive work environment, and realistic expectations all go a long way in managing caregiver stress. It can be hard for caregivers to ask for help, but making it available without asking is a simple solution. Above all, caregiver support, in all forms, is an integral part of the overall culture of care.

The Caregiver Crisis in Germany

Globally, the caregiving industry is in full bloom. Due to an aging population and an unfortunate increase in age-related maladies such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, societies around the world and specifically in the developed world are in dire need of well-trained and motivated caregivers to address the care issues surrounding the elderly. Europe’s biggest economy is no exception. Germany has had to think outside of the box to try to address what can be described as an out-of-control healthcare crisis.
We may find it odd that such an advanced country is suffering from a deficient elder care system. In fact, caregivers in Germany are a rare breed. Very few youngsters opt for a career in caregiving and this is as true in Germany as it is in the US and for the same basics reasons: lack of professional recognition, low wages, and, of course, exhaustion as pressure mounts on an increasingly overtaxed healthcare system.
What differentiates Germany from the US and other developed countries, however, is a willingness to tackle the issue head-on, and an acceptance by the government that they should have done better and must take immediate action to remedy the situation.
The way Germany has gone about addressing the healthcare crisis is by thinking outside the box and using creative, goal-oriented solutions that work. One idea has been to start a recruiting campaign abroad to fill the ranks of its caregivers. Another German initiative has been to use its recent increase in manpower due to the Syrian refugee crisis to help train and employ migrants to fill these sensitive posts. Both these initiatives have proven successful. They not only decreased the pressure on the German healthcare system by bringing an infusion of young caregivers into the system, but helped integrate migrants into German society.
These brand new developments in Germany have helped spark greater interest in caregiver seminars, training, and development.
In spite of the very encouraging developments that we are seeing from Germany, they still have a ways to go before the crisis has been fully dealt with. Germany’s leading charities have estimated that 100,000 workers will be needed to cover Germany’s immediate healthcare needs.
Germany is also working to tackle the salary gap that many caregivers face. The problem is that due to the deregulation of salaries in the healthcare industry, where private employers essentially pay what they want to pay with no limits set through negotiated tariffs with the unions, this leads to many caregivers becoming disenchanted by a system that seems geared to exploit them.
As we can see, Germany is showing a great deal of promise for caregivers and the industry as a whole. Of course, much more needs to be done before caregivers find the respect and recognition that their invaluable efforts deserve.