Caring for ill and aging family members is not a new concept but with the increasing number of elderly around the world, combined with an unstable economy, the demands on caregivers can be overwhelming. While some employers offer flexible work schedules and family leave time, many others demand much more than a traditional 9 -5 workweek. The requirements of a family caregiver are often more than a full time job as well.
According to The Wall Street Journal, many lawmakers and social-service providers are pushing for new ways to assist the vast unpaid workforce of people who are caring for their aging family members. These people are experiencing the strain of serving as family caregivers on a personal level as they assist more seniors to age in place but they also reduce reliance on public subsidies such as Medicaid, which is a major funder of institutional health care for older Americans.
“Families have always been the backbone of our system for caring for people,” said Kathy Greenlee, the assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told The Wall Street Journal, “Really, if we didn’t have them, we couldn’t afford as a country to monetize their care and we couldn’t replace, frankly, the love they provide to family members.”
By the Numbers:
- Approximately 40 million U.S. family caregivers provided unpaid care in 2013 for daily activities to an adult with limitations – valued at $470 billion according to AARP.
- Maine’s population of adults 65 and over is more than 18% – compared with nearly 15% for the U.S. as a whole
- A bipartisan bill, introduced in Congress in March, calls for a tax credit of up to $3,000 for eligible family caregivers.
- 6 billion people are expected to be 65 or over by 2016
- Less than $45,000 – the national average cost of full-time in home care but the majority of seniors do not require full-time or around the clock care. Many seniors require a few hours of support and assistance per week.
If you or someone you know is currently caring for a family member, some tips to keep in mind are:
Be organized. Create a file system that can be easily accessed and shared with other family members, including a daily schedule (information about daily medications, stress triggers, nap times, etc.) and key contacts (doctors, lawyers, accountants, family members and friends; along with with phone and e-mail info).
Talk to other caregivers. You’re not alone and sharing your challenging as well as helpful tips can help reduce your own stress level.
Don’t sacrifice your own life. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost in all the responsibilities of caregiving. Sometime the best support to a loved one is to take some time away and focus on your own health and well-being. While you may need to scale down many of your activities, maintaining a life outside of that caregiving role is important. Ask for help when you need it or bring in professional help, even on a limited basis, so you can make time to visit friends and pursue hobbies, activities, interests, career pursuits that will help you still be you.
For some family caregivers, the burden of caring for their loved ones without professional could grow too heavy. If the time has come when your aging loved one is no longer able to live independently, please contact the knowledgeable staff at ElderLink to help you find elder care services or an assisted living facility within California that is customized for your family.