Family caregivers fill a critical gap in the United State’s fractured healthcare landscape. Because Medicare doesn’t cover in-home care or assisted living services, family members often care for aging parents, ill spouses, and disabled loved ones themselves. According to research conducted by the AARP, there are 40 million Americans providing care for loved ones around the country. Roughly half those caregivers are between the ages of 50-64, while the other half fall between the ages of 18-49.
These family caregivers together provide billions of hours of unpaid care that comes at a high professional, personal, and emotional cost. During National Family Caregivers Month, we’d like to share five things you should know about these heroic, unpaid healthcare workers.
1. Family Caregiving Comes at a Great Financial Cost to Caregivers
It’s not just that family caregivers work for free. During the course of their caregiving, they also miss out on opportunities to earn money for themselves by working. This arrangement hits women especially hard. Last year, The Family Caregiver Alliance compiled some sobering statistics that revealed just how expensive family caregiving is.
- The negative impact on a caregiver’s retirement fund is approximately $40,000 more for women than it is for men.
- Caregiving reduces paid work hours for middle-aged women by about 41 percent.
- In total, the cost impact on the individual female caregiver in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits equals $324,044.
Many people assume it’s just too expensive to hire outside help to care for family members. This new data reveals that the cost of not getting help is actually higher.
2. Caregivers Often Feel Like They’re Not Doing Enough
It’s all too common for family caregivers to suffer from feelings of guilt as they go about their duties. They may feel like they’re never doing enough to take care of their loved ones. Or, they may even feel guilty because deep down, they resent being put in a caregiving position. It’s important to remember that these feelings are normal. And it certainly doesn’t mean caregivers love their family members any less.
When these feelings arrive, family caregivers will benefit from creating strong support networks they can share their feelings with. And, when possible, take breaks from their caregiving duties to recharge their batteries. After all, caregivers need to take care of themselves before they can take care of someone else.
3. Millennial Family Caregivers Face Different Challenges
Another AARP study examined the growing number of caregivers from the millennial generation and found they face unique challenges. As a group, they are more diverse, provide more care, are more likely to work jobs outside of their caregiving roles, all while earning less than previous generations. Unfortunately, as more Baby Boomers reach retirement and begin dealing with the health consequences that come with old age, even more millennials will be forced to take on these caregiving responsibilities.
4. Family Caregiving Requires Careful Planning
As we mentioned earlier, family caregiving comes with real consequences for the people doing the caregiving. With that in mind, if you believe you’ll need to begin caring for a family member, you’d be well-served to do some advanced planning. Legal instruments like living wills and durable powers of attorney can clarify your role and eliminate potential obstacles as you work to care for your loved one. Also, it’s essential to set some ground rules before beginning your work. Guidelines that define your responsibilities with your loved one and other family members who may contribute their care. These responsibilities too often come loaded with resentment because one person feels they’re carrying an unequal load over others. Defining these issues ahead-of-time can help smooth what is already a complicated process.
5. Help is Available for Family Caregivers
Perhaps most importantly, caregivers should realize that they are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association has compiled a handy list of support groups that caregivers can access to share their feelings and receive valuable support from other people in similar situations. Caregivers can also benefit from respite care services, where trained caregivers provide temporary in-home care for a few hours or a few days at a time. So, if you’d like to go on vacation, run some errands, or have some time to yourself, this could be a great option.
The role of a family caregiver is so important, but it can be tremendously isolating for the people who have to do it. So, during National Family Caregivers Month, let’s recognize these selfless people and do whatever we can to support them in their work.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.