Why Family Caregivers Need Support
The Caring Generation® – Episode 126 February 23, 2022. The reasons why family caregivers need support are many. On this episode, with Pamela D Wilson, family members will learn and prepare for unexpected events related to caring for aging parents and yourself. This week’s episode combines Pamela’s caregiver Livestream broadcast and information caregivers must know about caregiving.
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This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. Welcome to this week’s episode, Number 126, of The Caring Generation, Why Family Caregivers Need Support. I am answering questions about what caregivers need to learn and know so that you can be prepared, rather than shocked by, situations you may not be yet able to imagine. Many caregivers and older adults I talk with feel vulnerable about trying to navigate the healthcare system and family relationships. I can help.
Please share this episode, of Why Family Caregivers Need Support with family, friends, and colleagues in your workplace. There are people you know who help loved ones and may not call themselves a caregiver.
If you’re listening, you can watch the Livestream video broadcast that accompanies this podcast and find links to the research I mention. You can find links to the research when you go to my website PamelaDWilson.com, click on the Media Tab, and then The Caring Generation. You can also watch hundreds of videos answering caregiver questions on my YouTube Channel – PamelaDWilsonCaregivingExpert.
Things Men and Women Should Know About Caregiving
Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel
Why Family Caregivers Need Support
Initiating conversations about ongoing concerns with a loved one may have you feeling out of your comfort zone. However, mom can no longer deny a problem exists when your phone rings at 1 a.m., and the police ask you to pick up dad at a truck stop 200 miles from home. Reasons why family caregivers need support result from these and other unexpected situations that support creating care strategies.
Confronting aging parents or a spouse who is in denial about increasing health issues or fading abilities to manage day-to-day can result in feeling sad or helpless. The mom or dad you remember when you were younger may be a different person today. You may be concerned about a parent’s quality of life.
Family caregivers can lose sleep watching advancing memory loss or advancing chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis. But avoiding conversations about help for loved ones won’t stop the problems from happening. Depending on life experience, adult children may have varying comfort levels about approaching aging parents with recommendations.
Challenges for Young Caregivers
Older teenagers and young adults in their 20’s and 30’s are not usually who comes to mind when the word caregiver comes up in conversation. However, unlike years ago, young family members are more commonly involved in caring for sick parents and grandparents.
Young caregivers may feel different from their peers who appear to be enjoying carefree lives. Trying to balance education, work, personal relationships, and other opportunities can be more challenging when significant free time is devoted to helping family members.
Isolation and depression may result. In addition, since young adults may not identify with the word caregiver, they may not realize that caregiver support is available or do not know where to seek help.
Navigating the healthcare system is difficult for all caregivers, especially young adults. Doctors and other healthcare providers may view grandchildren or young adults as unqualified to help grandparents or parents.
While young caregivers may have a greater aptitude for using technology, researching and sorting through options for in-home care, assisted living, nursing homes, and other options may feel overwhelming. Parents and grandparents may still see them as children who lack the experience to make well-thought-out recommendations.
Sandwiched Middle-Aged Caregivers
In 1981, the term sandwich generation was given to adult children of the aging by social worker Dorothy A. Miller. Today adults in their 50’s and 60’s are the sandwich generation who continue to provide substantial support for aging parents while raising young children.
Many adults hoping for more freedom as children grow up and move out of the home take on the burden of caring for elderly parents who become dependent for support. Research by Pewconfirms that middle-aged adults provide financial support and emotional support for their parents and adult children.
Being stuck in the middle, raising children, working, and caring for elderly parents can stretch family caregivers. Careers, marriage, and the health of the caregivers suffer when life becomes unbalanced.
Acknowledging the Unexpected Effects of Caregiving on the Entire Family
As discussed in the caregiver Livestream video and the podcast focusing on why family caregivers need support, some similarities exist between raising children and caring for aging parents.
- Family vacations focusing on events for children change to holidays spent at the family home supporting parents through health emergencies, surgeries, and completing practical tasks to help parents remain living safely in the house.
- Instead of looking forward to graduations, weddings, and grandchildren, the focus shifts to practical plans about aging. Adult children help parents make decisions about healthcare, legal or financial planning, in addition to talking about burial or cremation plans.
- Early worries about children driving a car transfer to concerns about aging parents being physically or mentally capable of driving safely.
- When young siblings may have competed for the attention of parents. As time passes and elderly parents need care, a significant division may occur between siblings about being willing or able to assist with providing or financially contributing to care costs.
- Grandchildren may think that grandma or grandpa is crazy because of a lack of education about the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Adult children may also struggle to identify the diagnosis and the necessary steps to plan for care.
Emotional support for family caregivers becomes increasingly critical as aging parents’ health continues to decline. More reasons why family caregivers need support translates to navigating the healthcare system and learning about public health programs.
The Annual Costs of Care for the Sick and Elderly Can Exceed The Annual Income of a Family
- Choices may have to be made between contributing to a child’s college education, paying for mom or dad’s prescriptions, buying groceries, or other household expenses.
- The costs of care associated with aging and poor health are more than most families imagine. Medicare does not reimburse for the type of daily care and assistance that most older adults need to remain independent.
- The annual costs of occasional in-home care, or living in assisted living, memory care, or a nursing home can range from tens of thousands of dollars to several hundred thousand dollars.
Managing the Healthcare Needs of Aging Parents
Caregivers of all ages find themselves pulled into managing parents’ healthcare needs, whether reordering and picking up prescriptions or taking time off work to attend medical appointments. As the number of health diagnoses increases, more frequent medical care and oversight becomes necessary.
Because of a lack of experience about what to expect, a parent’s hospitalization or nursing home stay may significantly decrease daily abilities. Family caregivers and older adults may be shocked to acknowledge that returning home to live independently after a medical stay may require hands-on family support.
Parents may need assistance bathing or showering safely, dressing, or completing other previously simple self-care tasks. In addition, standing to cook or going to the grocery store may be physically exhausting. In some cases, the mental effects of anesthesia after surgery may result in significant mental confusion.
Reasons why family caregivers need support include decision-making to determine if parents can live safely and independently. An experienced care professional can evaluate the home and medical needs to help families make plans for care in the home and investigate other options.
Monitoring Medical Care May Feel Like a Struggle
Managing a single diagnosis like high blood pressure may feel like a simple task. However, knowing the ins and outs of managing multiple medical conditions like diabetes, COPD or breathing issues, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or managing pain that can limit mobility can be more challenging.
Understanding the short and long-term effects of these chronic diseases, managing medications, and monitoring daily care can be a full-time job for a spouse or an adult child who serves as a primary or secondary caregiver. Not only do caregivers help with everyday tasks around the house, but they must also learn to communicate with healthcare providers and provide medical care once offered only in the hospital or by nurses.
Using lifts to transfer immobile parents, taking blood pressure or blood sugar readings, managing insulin, changing catheter or ostomy bags, using feeding tubes, and completing a long list of medical tasks have become the responsibility of caregivers. The family home becoming the hospital of yesterday is why family caregivers need support and skills training to perform medical care.
Monitoring and learning about the health need of aging parents offer family caregivers the opportunity to learn about preventative health and make better choices. Aging does not always mean becoming sick and needing significant family care.
Quitting Work to Become a Full-Time Caregiver Poses Unexpected Risks
While adult children may consider quitting a full-time job to become full-time caregivers, this is not a decision to make without considering the short and long-term consequences.
- Women who drop out of the workforce to care for family members are more likely to live in poverty in old age.
- Caregivers who leave the workforce are unlikely to return to employment at the same position or income level as when they depart a job.
- Isolation and depression settle in when the caregiver has no outlet, like going to work every day, to fulfill personal needs for socialization, interaction, and self-esteem.
Before considering any lifestyle change that significantly affects income or daily life, families should discuss and make plans for managing the unintended consequences of caregiving.
Navigating the Healthcare System Requires Advocacy Skills
Health prevention is an individual responsibility. Unfortunately, this realization comes too late for many adults after a life-changing health diagnosis—instead of years before, when action could have been taken to reverse the condition.
Patient education is not the focus of the healthcare system or doctors. The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries spend billions of dollars each year to influence patient care by supporting the political campaigns of legislators. In addition, hospital CEOS are paid millions of dollars annually by the healthcare system and board appointments.
Caregivers and individuals must learn to advocate and fight to obtain care. Insurance companies are quick to deny treatment. Unfortunately, family members feel intimidated and give up when providers quickly dismiss appeals.
Consumers and patients are at a knowledge disadvantage. Many caregivers and adults needing care want to know more about healthcare costs but may be hesitant to ask. Having more information can help in making shared and supported family decisions about medical care.
Physicians untrained to manage the health conditions of the elderly can miss common diagnoses, refuse, or fail to treat advancing conditions. Even still, caring geriatricians and others well versed in managing the health conditions and day-to-day needs of the elderly exist for family caregivers who seek support.
Why Family Caregivers Need Support
Seeking caregiver support by attending support groups, taking educational courses, and consulting aging experts can reduce family caregiver stress. Adults and their caregivers can feel vulnerable when navigating the healthcare, legal, and home and community-based services.
There’s no need to feel alone or unable to get the care you want. The support of a knowledgeable and trustworthy professional offers peace of mind to make the best decisions and plan ahead to avoid unexpected events.
Looking for Support Making Care Decisions for a Loved One. Schedule a Telephone or Virtual Eldercare Consultation with Pamela D Wilson.
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