Supporting the Family Caregiver
John is exhausted. He has a highly stressful career and a wife and three children to support. Each day, after on his return from work, he stops by his mother Shirley’s house to feed her dinner and help her get ready for bed. Then he heads home where his wife Barbara has done the same for the kids. Barbara is in charge of the day shift – the doctor visits, medicine routines and shopping. She had to give up her job to accommodate both the eldercare and child care for the family. On weekends, they do as best that they can, between the kid’s full schedules of activities. Sometimes, they gather Shirley’s wheelchair and medicine and bring her over to their house overnight, but Shirley doesn’t always sleep well when she is not at home. They know their mother is appreciative, but Barbara and John don’t know how much longer they can keep this up.
John and Barbara are classic examples of stressed caregivers. It is clear they need some additional support.
Who is a Caregiver?
A caregiver is defined as “…an unpaid individual (for example, a spouse, partner, family member, friend or neighbor) involved in assisting another with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks.” Caregiver.org
Approximately 39.8 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult in the prior 12 months. Caregiving in the U. S. 2015, National Alliance for Caregiving.
Caregiver Stress and Burnout
Nearly 34.2 million Americans have suffered from caregiver stress in the past 12 months whilst providing unpaid care to someone 50 years of age or older.
“Researchers have found that the human immune system can be weakened by stress and strain for up to three years after caregiving ends,” noted in the New York Times article Love and Burnout: Caregivers, Too, Need Care by Constance Gustky Sept 2, 2016.
Physicians and the Family Caregiver
Dr. Pauline W. Chen highlights the ethical requirements of including the family caregiver in the patient-doctor relationship. Chen recognizes that “Doctors as a profession have been slow to recognize family members and loved ones who care for patients at home.” Doctor and Patient, Offering Care for the Caregiver by Pauline W Chen, M.D., New York Times January 22nd, 2010
“Doctors and healthcare providers are becoming more aware of the need for caregivers to find support and are a great resource for providing caregivers with access to resources and support groups.” Family Caregivers, Patients and Physicians: Ethical Guidance to Optimize Relationships Journal of General Internal Medicine
The Financial Toll on Family Caregivers
Caregivers may be required to give up their full-time jobs to properly care for their loved one. There is no process for compensating for the lost time, the loss of income, and savings and benefits towards their own healthcare as they age. The lack of financial freedom, security and work socialization creates added stress on the caregiver.
Caregiving in the LGBT Community
9% of caregivers self-identify as LGBT, says the National Alliance for Caregivers. They note in a 2014 survey, there are at least 3 million LGBT persons aged 55+ in the US and this number is expected to double in the next decade.
Both LGBT caregivers and their loved ones require care and access to resources that speak to their unique needs and concerns. Green Hill is the only residential senior care provider in the NYC metro area certified with SAGECare Platinum Status for completing a comprehensive provider training program for LGBT older adults and their caregivers, and cultural competency training on subjects related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Finding Support and Care for the Caregiver
When on an airplane, in the case of oxygen mask deployment, one is to put the mask over their own nose and mouth before assisting another. Focusing on caring for yourself enables you to provide better care for your loved one.
Here are a few ways to ease some of the daily stress family caregivers face:
- Find a Caregiver Support Group: Support Groups provide a resource for caregivers negotiating the needs of their loved one, and the personal stress and challenges of providing care. They can assist you in accessing available entitlements and benefits.
- Make time for yourself each day: Carve out time to do something you like to do like take a bubble bath or read a book.
- Meditate: Studies show 15 minutes of quiet meditation and deep breathing lowers blood pressure and stress.
- Exercise: Walk, dance, ride a bike, or do some resistance training. Exercise reduces stress, increases oxygen to the blood stream, helps manage weight and release endorphins which is known to elevate mood.
- Eat Healthy Foods: Stress increases the desire for sugar and simple carbohydrates which are addicting and lead to weigh gain and cardiovascular disease. Don’t let yourself get hungry as it increases stress and impedes an active metabolism.
- Get Help with Respite Care: Don’t feel guilty about getting help and having someone take over your caregiver responsibilities for an evening, weekend or a vacation away. Respite care – when you book your loved one for a short term stay in an assisted living facility – is becoming popular.
Benefits of respite care include:
- Assistance for a loved one during an illness or following a hospital stay
- A break for family members
- A trial stay prior to a permanent move
- Support when you’re traveling or unavailable
Respite Care at Green Hill
Green Hill, conveniently located in the NYC metro area has a full continuum of care and the right level of assistance for your senior whatever your respite needs. We know your loved one is your top priority and you would not be able to rest unless you were confident they were content and safe. When you need a break, you’ll want someone you can trust. Our professional caregivers provide 24-hour short-term care in a safe and comfortable environment. We’ll provide your loved one with the same care that our full-time residents receive.
Choose a Green Hill Staycation while you vacation. Your loved one can spend two weeks with us while you get the rest you need. If your loved one decides they would like to stay with us, or return to live with us in future, the second Staycation week room and board is free and will be credited to your account as our ‘Welcome to the Family’ gift.
About Green Hill
Green Hill in West Orange New Jersey is an intimate, Five-Star rated senior living community that focuses on a person-directed, continuum of care. That means that the senior is the center of his or her emotional, physical and healthcare choices. Green Hill offers independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and memory care in the Legacy building or in one of our Green House® Homes. Living suites are single or couple occupancy with private baths. Green Hill provides a care ratio far above the New Jersey and national averages and boasts the highest level of team member longevity in the industry. Green Hill is family-centered and family-focused with a wide range of events and activities for residents, friends and family members.
Contact us today to learn more about senior care services at Green Hill, or call 973-731-2300 x381.
- http://www.caregiving.org – National Alliance for Caregiving
- Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving. Toolkit on caregiving https://www.caregiver.org/caregivers-count-too-toolkit
- “The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers” (The Guilford Press, 2006), Barry Jacobs, a clinical psychologist