Family Members as Caregivers – The Tryon Daily Bulletin

For many young couples, the exchange of wedding vows that included the words “…in sickness and in health…” were just that – words at the time. Fast forward thirty to fifty years or more and suddenly those words have a far greater impact than ever anticipated. According to the American Academy of Geriatric Psychiatrists, one in four American families care for someone over the age of 50. That number is set to skyrocket as the Census Bureau predicts that by 2030, just eight short years away, more than 71 million Americans will be over the age of 65.

Caregiving work for a spouse or loved one can become a full-time, unpaid job that tirelessly consumes every minute of every day. It can have serious consequences for both the relationship and the health of the caregiver. If you or a family member are caring for a loved one with a chronic illness or dementia and you have experienced depression, anger or guilt, and their health has since deteriorated he/she has taken on the responsibility of providing care, he/she may be suffering from caregiver stress, also known as caregiver syndrome.

Caregiver syndrome poses a high risk of mortality in older caregivers. As early as December 1999, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that “…elderly caregivers have a 63% higher mortality risk than non-caregivers in the same age group.” This statistic was updated on September 15, 2014 in a report by the estate planning and probate law firm Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras PC in Troy, MI, titled “70% of All Caregivers Over 70 years die first. “That number may be even higher today.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help minimize the challenges of caring for your aging loved ones. Here are 10 things that can help you in your role as a family caregiver.

1. Take care of yourself. Take time for yourself to reduce the risk of burnout. Exercise, do things you enjoy, stay in touch with friends, and do your best to get enough sleep.

2. Develop stress management techniques. Some things are as simple as taking a walk or learning and practicing meditation techniques for as little as 20 minutes a day. These can help keep your stress levels low.

3. Educate yourself. Learn all you can about your loved one’s condition and current best practices in providing basic care. If you use a computer, you can search and find huge amounts of research on creative self-care ideas as well as ways to protect your physical and mental health.

4. Create a schedule and stay organized. It is important to have a schedule for care times, personal time and appointments for your loved one. This can include dates and times when other family members are willing to help. Also keep online and physical records of all important information related to your loved one’s care, including doctor’s phone numbers, current and past medication lists, medical documents and test results.

5. Make sure all legal documents are up to date. As I have explained in previous articles, when your loved one is in a clear mental state, update all legal documents for powers of attorney, wills, living wills, investment and insurance documents. Make sure the named beneficiaries reflect your loved one’s current wishes.

6. Don’t let problems pile up. Handle challenges as they arise rather than procrastinating and keep things manageable. Communicate with your loved one if you feel the relationship is getting strained or strained.

7. Be realistic about your abilities. Assess your own living situation. If you have a demanding full-time job and have a young family at home, caring for a family member can easily require 20 or more hours per week and may not be a realistic solution.

8. Connect with support groups and other caregivers in your community. People who are going through similar experiences can provide you with information and help you feel connected in your new role.

9. Seek professional help before becoming overwhelmed. Over time, you may find that caring for your loved one is too much to handle on your own. As soon as you accept this reality, it is time to seek help from family members, close friends and geriatric professionals who may be able to offer you assistance.

10. Find out about the support services available in your community. Do as much research as possible to find out if there are services such as home care, meal delivery, and medical assistance providers available in your community, including veterans aid and assistance through the AV. Taking care of yourself first is key, because without you, your loved one might not have help.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on aging issues. You can contact him by phone at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: [email protected]

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