The United States is recognized as the provider of the most sophisticated health care in the world at an annual estimated cost of more than $1.7 trillion. But while spending significantly more money on health care than any other leading industrialized nation, the U.S. also retains a significantly larger population of unserved or underserved citizens. To further complicate matters, America’s elderly population, the consumers of the largest portion our hour health-care dollars, is rapidly increasing. In 2011, 77 million baby boomers turned 65.
As our population continues to age, how are we going to take care of our loved ones who are in this age category? According to the National Family Caregiving Association, more than one quarter of the adult population has provided care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during the past year. Based on past census data, that number translates into more than 50 million people.
When you finally decide that a senor loved one needs help, what do you do?
No one plans to be the primary caregiver of a senior loved one.
We should, but we don’t. We save money for our own retirement; we save for our children’s education, weddings and such. We take vacations and spend money on cars and the like. But do we think about the cost of caring for a senior family member?
Typically, when a parent becomes ill, or grows frail, one sibling gravitates toward the role of primary caregiver and takes on the majority of the work. This person may be the closest to the parent geographically or emotionally. Typically, they may be the one who always takes charge, the one with the most time to give or the one who usually takes care of them.
As a family caregiver, you may also experience depression. You may believe that you cannot do enough for the person you care for. You may also be angry because your efforts go unappreciated and unrecognized. Perhaps you don’t get the help and support from other family members. Like many caregivers, you were thrust into this role without much preparation or planning.
You may have believed that no matter what would happen to your loved one, you would have an abundance of love, strength and courage to care for them. But now as the caregiver, you are faced with the realities of the job, your stamina is dwindling and you are feeling resentful.
According to the National Family Caregiving Association, an estimated 61 percent of family members who provide 21 hours or more of care per week suffer from depression. You need to recognize the signs of caregiver fatigue and stress. If not addressed, it can negatively affect your own health and well-being and your ability to provide care.
This is where private duty/in-home care services can help. Family members providing care to loved ones need respite care (respite care is intended to provide a time period of relief for the primary caregiver). Many services can be customized to meet your needs whether for a few hours, a whole day, once a week or every day. These services are there to enhance the quality of life and peace of mind for all members of the family and caregiving team.