Caring for your loved one’s health and livelihood should not have to come at the expense of your own. Sadly, caregivers today are suffering deteriorating health, emotional strain, and financial insecurity.
Today in the U.S., there are not only increased reports of physical, financial, and emotional strain from caregivers but a higher demand for caregiving altogether. Between the progressively aging baby boomer population to additional efforts from the states to facilitate home and community services, there is an increased prevalence of unpaid caregivers.
Family members, friends, and neighbors are stepping up to the plate as greater assistance is needed to address the health or functional needs of adults.
As more and more people have had to adjust their roles over the past year, COVID has exacerbated one very real concern for caregivers which is burnout, a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion due to prolonged stressed that can lead to depression. Burnout can affect all areas of your life – not only the ability to care for yourself but to care for your loved ones. Moving forward, the impact of COVID may take an even greater toll on the emotional health of caregivers.
According to a 2020 AARP report, each week in 2019, 47.9 million caregivers provided an average of roughly 24 hours of care. Of those caregivers, 70 percent reported high emotional stress, 55 percent reported feeling alone, and 36 percent reported financial strain. Caregivers are often in need of more support, programs, benefits, and information, but they can be too expensive or hard to find. The majority of caregivers also feel that an income tax credit or program would help lessen some of the financial burdens of caregiving, which commonly leads to significant financial consequences.
Caregivers suffering from burnout or depression are even more likely to neglect their own health and needs. Yet, as a caregiver, it is vital to pay attention to your feelings and not forget to take care of yourself.
Reaching out for help from family or friends at times can lighten the load physically and emotionally. Similarly, you can talk to a support group or other caregivers for emotional support and encouragement. Caregivers are also advised to avoid isolation, being mindful to take some time for things that they enjoy such as hobbies and time with friends.
Be sure to take regular breaks to reset and relax throughout the day. While 15-minute breaks can help, more caregivers are beginning to recognize that greater use of respite care would be beneficial as well. Respite care is an excellent option for when you need a longer break, whether it is a matter of a few hours or a few days.
With one in four caregivers finding it difficult to care for their own health and financial wellbeing, it begs the question of who will be there to meet the constant demands of caregiving? Who will care for the caregivers?
With the appropriate amount of supports and services, we can resolve these issues before the situation of caregiver burnout becomes more critical. As America ages, the need to support care caregivers will become paramount, but now the opportunity to work together and improve our health care and LTSS systems is prevailing.