Family members want to have our loved ones in their lives as long as possible. To make sure they can handle increasing stress and avoid burnout, family caregivers should take good care of themselves and consider home care assistance.
Families take on the bulk of elder care, which is a practical reason that more adults of different ages now live under one roof in a multigenerational household. Health care at home draws adult children closer and spouses together to support a family elder.
However, families undertaking home health care should consider the needs of caregivers too. Half of the caregivers of older adults are themselves over 65, and half of caregivers at that age report having two or more chronic diseases. They may overlook their own health plan, and their condition may pose a challenge to helping others. It’s important not to ignore warning signs that caregiving is affecting health in the family.
How to Avoid Caregiver Stress and Burnout
Caregiving is physically demanding. Care may involve lifting a person and supporting their movement from place to place, plus bending and reaching for walkers and medical equipment. Over time, the twists and turns add up. Family caregivers can learn from nurses, who train to limit back and muscle strain. Nurses move their whole bodies to position tasks in front of them.
Demands of home health care not only make injury more likely but also can weaken the immune system. Often, family caregivers work while sick, neglect diet and activity and raise their own risk for developing heart disease or other conditions. Family caregivers should keep up their own medical appointments, health screenings, sleep and exercise.
The mental demands may not be as obvious. Attending to a family member cuts away at work, child-raising and other activities, especially if one person shoulders most duties. They might feel guilty about breaking away for other duties or spending time away. The person being cared for often would rather be on their own and might feel guilty about needing help. This can be a recipe for resentment, agitation, depression and a tense relationship.
To manage caregiver stress, pay attention to feelings of being alone, overwhelmed, tired or worried. Take time to relax, connect with friends and get out of the house to work out and do things you enjoy. Pay attention to how you feel. Connecting with your faith community can inspire you. A support group will give you a way to trade advice with people who know what you’re going through.
Community Services Provide Home Care Assistance
Even an ideal home healthcare arrangement can be hard to sustain over time. A loved one might become bedridden or confused. The home healthcare role may grow to assist with everyday tasks around eating, dressing or bathing, giving family caregivers little or no “time off.” Alzheimer’s caregivers may struggle with their own focus. At some point, care might be too much to take.
To avoid caregiver burnout, don’t take on home healthcare duties alone. Divide specific responsibilities such as bills, meals, medical appointments and medicines among several family members. Be honest about what your loved one needs and the limits of what you can do. Don’t neglect reaching out to non-medical community resources such as companionship services, health ministries, financial or legal counseling or meals on wheels.
Next, consider home care assistance for vacations or other breaks the family can’t cover. Respite services offer short-term care for an afternoon or for several days, in or out of the home. Adult daycare provides a supervised social setting outside the home with meals and activities. Some adult daycare services have staff trained for therapy, management of chronic conditions or dementia care for people who have memory problems or who may wander away.
Caregiving can be a financial stretch. Talk with family about sharing the financial costs. Long-term care plans cover home healthcare assistance in or out of nursing homes, but health plans have more limited options. The AARP advises people willing to pay family for their care to consider putting the arrangement in writing. Medicare may cover home health care, physical or occupational therapy, medical equipment and possibly transportation, nutrition or other expenses. Medicaid or military benefits may include caregiver pay.
The Zing Health team will help sort out insurance coverage and coordinate healthcare services from multiple providers. They can also refer you to state and local aging agencies learn about community assistance programs. Their goal is to promote the health and well-being of the whole family, so they can support each other.