In the United States, it’s estimated that in 2015, around 34 million family caregivers provided unpaid, in-home care to a relative. According to the Pew Research Center, that number represents 36% of U.S. adults. Additionally, the American Association of Caregiving Youth, reminds us that it is not only adults who shoulder the responsibility, but 1.4 million youths age 8-18, that provide care for a loved one. On average, these family caregivers spend over 24 hours each week helping with tasks like cleaning the house, driving to appointments, home repairs, and personal care tasks like bathing and dressing. On occasion, family caregivers may also perform tasks typically reserved for medical professionals.
While family caregiving can be challenging, most caregivers report that they feel it’s a rewarding and positive experience. Providing care to a loved one can also bring the family unit closer together and strengthen relationships.
The Challenges Facing Family Caregivers
With the average life expectancy continuing to rise and more seniors desiring to age in place in their homes for as long as possible, the number of family caregivers is only going to increase. While it’s true that caregiving can be a positive experience, there are certain challenges these individuals will face along their journey as a family caregiver.
Caregiving can take both an emotional and physical toll on those providing the care, and it’s quite common for a family caregiver to report varying levels of stress. In fact, some caregivers find themselves at a higher risk for health problems of their own, as well as facing exhaustion, depression and social isolation.
Family caregivers also report they have issues managing their time and find they are often sacrificing personal time to be there for their loved ones. Plus, many family caregivers find there are monetary constraints from having to take time away from their careers. Additionally, youth caregivers in many instances do not receive the support they need to help them to successfully remain in school and pursue higher education and careers.
Putting the Client First: Working with Family Caregivers
According to a report from AgingCare.com, family caregivers will often turn to a home care company when caregiving tasks become too difficult or medically involved for them to continue to perform them on their own. Twenty-two percent of adult children caring for an aging parent rely on such home care services, usually to provide around 20 hours per week of care. In addition, The American Association for Caregiving Youth is providing the support and assistance to the youth caregivers to help them manage the stress of caregiving and school, through education, mentoring and peer groups to keep them on track for graduation.
It’s important to note, however, that many family caregivers will feel a certain level of guilt over having to enlist a home care company’s services. When your team works on building the relationship with the family caregivers, take into consideration they will have a deep understanding of their loved ones needs. The family caregiver is your best resource and will be able to provide your company with a detailed list of their family member’s strengths and weaknesses. While it may take a period of adjustment for the family caregivers, it will provide them comfort knowing that some of the burden has been lifted and they can focus on providing their loved ones with companionship and emotional support.
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