As our parents age, the thought of their actually failing in health or mental capabilities seems for the most part, years down the road. Thus it catches most children and spouses unprepared and sometimes surprised when their loved one needs care and help with daily living activities.
A stroke, injury or sudden illness may result in the immediate need for a significant caregiving commitment. On the other side a slow progressing infirmity of old age or the slow onset of dementia may require intermittent caregiving. Either way, if you have not made provisions for this, you may accidentally become a “caregiver”.
It is estimated that over 43.5 million adult family caregivers care for someone 50 years of age and 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. The value of unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the United States. There are two types of caregiving scenarios, Formal and Informal.
Formal caregivers are care givers associated with a service system. Service systems can include for-profit or nonprofit nursing homes, care facilities, assisted living, home care agencies, community services, hospice, church or charity service groups, adult day care, senior centers, association services and state aging services. Some of these formal caregiver services are covered by Health Insurance, Long-Term Care Insurance, Medicare and VA Benefits. Otherwise for formal care where there is a charge, payment is out-of-pocket by the individual or family members.
Informal caregivers are family, friends, neighbors, or church members who provide unpaid care out of love, respect, obligation or friendship to a disabled person. The number of informal caregivers range from 20 million to 50 million people. This could represent about 20% of the total population providing part-time care for loved ones.
About two-thirds of those caregivers for people over age 50 are employed full-time or part-time and two-thirds of those – about 45% of all working caregivers report having to rearrange their work schedule decrease their hours or take an unpaid leave in order to meet their caregiving responsibilities.
Accidental Caregivers are involved in assisting a loved one with day-to-day living needs which can include everything from managing money and paying bills to providing transportation and maintaining the household.
As care needs increase, both in the number of hours required and in the number or intensity of activities requiring help, there is a greater need for the services of formal caregivers. Unfortunately, many informal caregivers become so focused on their task, they don’t realize they are getting in over their heads and that they have reached the point where partial or total formal caregiving is necessary. Managing their own needs and daily schedule along with those of the person they are caring for can become so consuming and energy depleting that the caregiver themselves are in need of care. At this point, it becomes time to bring in other family members, professional services and medical advisors to create a plan of care that is best for all involved.
Caregivers stress and burnout are serious issues that face caregivers providing both formal and informal care. Make certain you take care of yourself as well as take care of your loved one. The work of a caregiver is difficult but caregiving can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.