Caring for a family member or friend stricken with a chronic condition can be a heartbreaking task, especially for individuals who are still employed or facing health challenges of their own. While we at SelectCare Home Care Services understand that no one can provide the unique, personal touch of a loved one, we pride ourselves on giving family caregivers time to catch their breath before those stresses become unbearable.
The past decade has seen a massive influx of research into the physical and emotional health of family caregivers and revealed what many advocates have seen anecdotally for years: family caregivers are more susceptible to chronic medical conditions, but are less likely to seek help in managing these conditions.
According to a recent Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, family caregivers reported nearly double the rate of chronic conditions compared to non-caregivers (45 and 24 percent, respectively.) The same report indicated that family caregivers’ average only four trips to a doctor’s office annually, compared to seven annual trips for their non-caregiver counterparts in the same age range.
Unfortunately, managing the symptoms of a loved one, keeping up with their medication, and performing previously shared household responsibilities can leave a caregiver with less time and little energy to address their own personal health concerns.
Alice Ho, Sara R. Collins, Ph.D., Karen Davis, Ph.D., and Michelle M. Doty, Ph.D. “A Look at Working-Age Caregivers’ Roles, Health Concerns, and Need for Support,” The Commonwealth Fund, August 2005.
After a few strenuous days, weeks, or years of providing care to a loved one, it’s easy to feel isolated, but take heart knowing that there are more than 65 million Americans (29% of the adult population) facing the same challenges as you. Many of these caregivers have formed valuable support networks that can provide helpful tips, insights, or just the knowledge that you are not the only person struggling to make the best of a difficult situation.
One of the best sources of support and advice can be found online at the Caregiver Action Network which provides helpful information and advocacy, as well as a lively forum where caregivers can discuss their own experiences and learn from their peers.
Locally, the New York City Department for the Aging provides links to local organizations and health care providers who can lend a needed hand, as well as access to volunteer groups and organizations that can link caregivers with entitlements and benefits.
With all of these resources available, the first step for an overwhelmed family caregiver is recognizing that you might need help. The American Medical Association publishes a helpful diagnostic tool that, while meant to be administered by medical staff to a family caregiver, can be taken at home and can give you a better idea of when you should begin considering outside help.
Even if you do not feel like you are ready to call on outside assistance, there are plenty of caregiving tips available online to help you avoid a burn out.
Always remember that as a loved one’s family caregiver, your overall health and well-being will determine how effectively you can perform this role. By ignoring your own needs in the service of a loved one, you could potentially be endangering both people’s health.
If you are a family caregiver who could benefit from a little time to yourself, or if your own health begins to decline, do not hesitate to call the staff of SelectCare to learn more about our services and arrange a free in-home health assessment. Our experts have been assisting family caregivers since 1985 and will always be there to lend a helping hand.
On a personal note, I would like to mention that I am a family caregiver as well, providing long-distance assistance to my mother and stepfather with the help of my siblings. My husband also spent his early 20’s caring for his grandmother. We at SelectCare understand what you are going through and will do everything we can to make a difference for your family. We understand the strain caregiving can put on a family and we are here for you. Carla Holub