Submitted by Hospice of Marion County
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance and National Center on Caregiving, an estimated 44 million Americans age 18 and older provide unpaid assistance and support to older adults with disabilities. The value of this unpaid labor force is estimated to be $306 billion annually, nearly double the combined costs of home health care ($43 billion) and nursing home care ($115 billion).
Additionally, most caregivers receive little or no support from their own families or other organizations and are basically on their own. In 2018, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 16 million Americans provided unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. These caregivers provided an estimated 18.5 billion hours valued at $234 billion, and 35% of these caregivers report that their own health has gotten worse due to care responsibilities compared to 19% of caregivers of older people without dementia.
Health of Caregivers Impacted
There’s been a growing trend over the last few decades of closing mental health facilities, early discharge of hospital patients, and implementation of managed care practices which causes a shift and burden to families and caregivers. This often results in financial loss, strain among families, and caregiver health issues that manifest due to increased stress.
Studies consistently show the following impacts on a caregiver’s health:
• Higher levels of depression and depressive symptoms than in non-caregivers
• Depressed caregivers are more likely to have coexisting anxiety disorders, substance abuse or dependence, and chronic disease
• Caregivers who experience chronic stress may be at a greater risk for cognitive decline
• Caregivers report having a higher incidence of stress, weight gain, headaches, and back strain among other physical ailments and pain associated with caregiving
Women tend to be, more often than not, the primary caregivers. However, being a caregiver whether male or female affects your quality of life and increases the challenge of balancing your personal schedule with that of the intense, demanding focus needed to be a caregiver.
Resources and Tips Available
Caregivers tend to put others first and themselves last. However, it’s vitally important for all caregivers to make sure they are taking care of themselves mentally, physically and socially. Below are some resources and tips to consider:
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family members or close friends who could run errands
• Practice meditation and exercise to help relieve stress—set aside early morning or evening for yourself
• Do something socially just for you–see a movie, have lunch with friends
• Check into your office policies to see if you have family leave benefits
• Call Hospice of Marion County’s Transitions program – This is a community supported volunteer-based resource program: (352) 854-5200 or visit www.transitionsfl.com to learn more about this program’s caregiver support groups, respite for the caregiver, assistance for caregivers in homes and assisted living facilities.