The findings from AARPprovidean interesting account of the care giving community and what the future holds for those in the healthcare industry.
The Caregiver Dilemma
At present, there are an estimated 43.5 million adult caregivers who provide care to people over the age of 50.
Out of these 43.5 million, there are an approximate 34.2 million who work unpaid.
A majority of these caregivers are women, making up about 60% of the total number. A large number of these caregivers are usually relatives, with around 49% of them caring for either a parent or for an in-law. Those who put in higher hours more likely care for a partner or a spouse.
As for the recipient, around 14% of patients being cared for need someone because of their old age. Other reasons include surgery or wounds, Alzheimer’s or dementia. Whereas other conditions for care include mobility issues, emotional and mental health problem and cancer.
On average, caregivers have to spend about 24.4 hours each week providing care for a loved one. However, because a major portion of these caregivers are not trained or experienced in providing adequate care to their loved ones, the job can easily become overwhelming for them. These caregivers spend a massive part of their time performing tasks that need professional medical attention.
According to the same study by AARP, these medical responsibilities include tube feedings, colostomy and catheter care among other tasks.
And the problem here is that even if these caregivers had the opportunity to educate themselves on proper methods, they either won’t have the time or the funds to do so. As unpaid caregivers—half of whom don’t have a choice—these people do not have the emotional support they need or the energy to be trained professionally.
Coping as a First-Time Caregiver – Care Tips
In this blog, we’re focused more on first-time caregivers without any professional training because we understand how difficult this situation must be for you.
To make caregiving easier, here are some things you should know.
Have Confidence in Your Instincts
Whether you like it or not, you’re in this situation now and you need to put your all into it. Stay in contact with your loved one’s doctor and keep track of any changes that you feel are affecting the patient.
If you think something is wrong, or if something doesn’t sit well with the patient’s medication, talk to the doctor straight away. Trust your gut on this.
Understand That It Will Take Time to Learn
Being a caregiver can feel daunting, so you might at one point feel like you’re doing a lot of things wrong. But this is whycaregiver counseling and education is so important. Use caregiver resources like The Global Caregiver and learn as much as you can about how to become a family caregiver. And be kind to yourself. It takes some time for even professional caregivers to get into the hang of it.
Learn to Communicate
Clear communication ensures you that the caregiving process is going smoothly.
However, if you’re dealing with someone with a mental or emotional health issue, be accommodating, i.e. more understanding and patient.
Rather than speaking bluntly on any topic, find an opening and go with that. For example, if they have trouble reading, use a conversation starter like a book or a newspaper and ask them if it’s causing them any problem.
Ask Others to Help and Be Pushy if Need Be
While you are quite capable of doing it alone, it doesn’t mean others are off the hook. Ask other family members to be a part of the caregiving process and push them to join you.
While some people are hesitant when it comes to helping others, this hesitation has more to do with their lack of confidence in their caregiving skills, rather than anything else. Ensure them of your presence and their own abilities.
Collect all the important contact numbers and details of all medications in several folders and place them nearby. Update them as needed. Also, make a list of all emergency contacts and keep copies of the list on your person, near the patient, in the car and nearby. You need to be prepared in case there’s any situation that warrants immediate action.
Give Yourself Time and Space
Whenever possible, give yourself time away from it all. Look after yourself, your life and focus on your needs. It’s quite easy to let your responsibilities consume you. Take care of your own physical, emotional and mental needs and do not feel guilty if you feel overtired and want some time to yourself.
Teach your loved one to be more independent and less dependent on you for their daily tasks. They already know what they need to do every day. Just teach them that they’re strong enough and safe to do what they want without your support.
Use Technology to Your Benefit
Technology makes your life easier. Use automatic systems in the bathroom and the kitchen. Install a fingerprint activated or voice recognition security system. Use online resources to coach yourself to become a better family caregiver. Utilize all options to make your life better.
Family Caregiver Support
As a first-time caregiver, there’s so much you need to learn on how to take care of a family member. However, the truth is that you may already know most about what it takes.
Taking care of someone is a big task and you’ve undertaken the responsibility. This already makes you a much stronger person. Just believe in your abilities and conduct yourself with grace.
You’ll be able to give your loved one the support they need to live a happier life. And you’ll have the strength you need to be that support system!