As the U.S. population continues to grow older and live longer, many people find themselves providing for the caregiving needs of aging parents, children with disabilities, or even family friends. As this trend increases, so does the amount of stress that family caregivers face each day.
According to a recent AARP report on the state of caregiving in America, caregivers are more stressed and in greater health decline than non-caregivers and more stressed than they were in a 2015 study.
Currently, more than one in five Americans are caring for an adult or a child with special needs. Six in ten caregivers are working while performing caregiving duties. On average, caregiving consumes 24 hours each week.
The report also states that 61 percent of caregivers in the U.S. are struggling to maintain productivity at work, with the majority reporting at least one work-related impact.
- Typical work-related impacts include going in late, leaving early, or taking unexpected time off to help the person in their care.
- Fifteen percent have moved from full- to part-time work.
- Six percent quit work altogether.
- Five percent retired early.
- Hispanics and African Americans, more than other groups, report having suffered negative financial consequences from caregiving.
While daily duties and responsibilities often leave caregivers feeling stressed and anxious, there’s another side to caregiving as well. More than half of surveyed respondents said that their caregiving role has given them a greater sense of purpose or meaning.
Caregivers play such valuable and vital roles in our community. So how can we help? Here are a few ideas.
4 Ways to Help Stressed Caregivers
Let’s get businesses involved! Creating part-time professional roles or offering flexible working hours would enable caregivers to benefit financially while also giving them a greater sense of personal and professional fulfillment. Furthermore, many caregivers prefer to work outside of the home because it gives them a sense of normalcy and provides a break from caregiving.
Let’s get community centers involved! Among the aging population, those who are physically active tend to be in better physical, mental and emotional health than those who are not. Caregivers also benefit from exercise but may not have opportunity to do it consistently because of their responsibilities. Let’s get creative in finding ways to help! For example, local gyms and activity centers could offer co-memberships for caregivers and care recipients. These locations could also create programs and activities to entertain care recipients while the caregiver exercises.
Let’s get organizations involved! People who volunteer report feeling better about themselves. Let’s encourage organizations to expand volunteer opportunities for older adults, people with disabilities and their caregivers. In addition to creating a sense of purpose for the individuals, this also allows the caregiver to participate in volunteer work and get their endorphins going!
Let’s get EVERYONE involved! Loneliness is a commonly reported feeling among caregivers. It’s important for them – as well as those they are caring for – to stay connected. Offering to give caregivers a break to maintain their own social networks is important. You can also help by sending a simple card with a few encouraging words, making a quick phone call to check in, or by dropping off dinner. The simplest gesture can mean the world to someone. If we all pitch in whenever and wherever we can, we just might be able to help caregivers de-stress and refresh.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. If you know someone who could benefit from guidance and coaching on their caregiving journey, please refer them to CICOA’s caregiver support service.