According to a recent study conducted by the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), there are more than 43.5 million adults in the United States who have provided unpaid care to an adult or child within the last year. 34.2 of these Americans provide care to an adult age 50 or older. On average, a family caregiver will spend over 24 hours each week providing care to a loved one, although many report spending over 40 hours per week on caregiving duties.
Caregiver burden is reportedly highest among those providing care to a spouse or partner. Family caregiving usually involves tasks above and beyond assisting with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing and eating, but also medical or nursing tasks that are typically performed by a nurse.
Being a Family Caregiver – The Common Challenges
While family caregiving can be a genuinely rewarding experience, the caregivers often face common challenges that leave them overwhelmed, anxious and/or intimidated by their duties. Some of these challenges a family caregiver faces are:
- Managing their time. Caregivers often find they have less time for themselves and other family members. They often spend so much time on caregiving duties that they end up sacrificing the things they enjoy, like hobbies or vacations. Or, they have trouble balancing work schedules around caregiving.
- Emotional and physical stress. 22% of caregivers report that their health has gotten worse as a result of caregiving. Caring for chronic conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease seem to cause the most emotional stress. The physical demands of caregiving can also take a toll, when the duties include lifting and helping with mobility.
- Lack of privacy. A family caregiver often reports feeling a lack of privacy in the home once they’ve taken on a loved one, especially in smaller space. It can be difficult to set boundaries to get away from constant interactions.
- Financial strain. Because most family caregivers are unpaid, they can start to feel some financial strain, especially when caregiving takes them away from a paying job. The longer the family caregiver has been providing care, the more financial strain they feel.
- Sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep can be a big issue for a family caregiver, as often the loved one’s sleep-wake cycle can be mixed up. Sleep deprivation can take a huge toll on a caregiver who is already feeling the strain of being burned from both ends.
- Being afraid to ask for help. Many caregivers feel ashamed to ask for help from others. They feel they must assume the full caregiver burden as that asking for some assistance may be a sign of weakness. The caregiver in turn starts to feel guilty that they aren’t providing the best care that they could.
- Depression and isolation. A family caregiver is often at high risk for depression. Oftentimes, caregiving duties take up so much of their time that they no longer maintain social connections outside of the home.
It’s important to seek a balance between caregiving and your own life. This is why respite services are so important to family caregivers. Respite care allows caregivers a break from their caregiving duties so they can attend to their own needs, whether it’s to focus on their own health or to pursue other interests.
American Senior Communities offers respite care services for family caregivers so they have a chance to properly care for themselves. For more information about our respite care services, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com/service/respite/.