Why It’s Important to Care for the Caregivers
If you picture yourself receiving long-term care at some point, you likely envision a medical professional sitting bedside, tending to your needs. However, the bulk of long-term care in the U.S. is actually provided by family caregivers.1
According to a recent Merrill Lynch study, 20 million Americans become caregivers each year. Moreover, family caregivers collectively spend $190 billion a year of their own money on adult care recipients. And the toll doesn’t end there. In addition to 92 percent of caregivers using their own money and/or coordinating or managing finances to aid loved ones:2
- 98% provide emotional support
- 92% provide household support
- 79% provide care coordination
- 64% provide physical care
Women usually do more caregiving than men, the study found, averaging six years of caregiving in their lifetime compared to four for men. As a result, caregiving can bring more of a financial burden for women because of the time they may need to take away from their careers to care for loved ones.3
The financial burden of caregiving, for both men and women, should not be underestimated. The study shows 53 percent of respondents have made financial sacrifices as caregivers, and 21 percent have dipped into their savings.4
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Increasing attention is also being given to the psychosocial burden experienced by family caregivers. The responsibility and stress can contribute to their own physical conditions, including chronic diseases caused by unhealthy eating habits, sleeping poorly and not getting enough physical activity.5
Caregivers have twice the incidence of heart attack, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes compared to non-caregivers. Their chronic stress can even lead to cognitive reduction such as short-term memory loss and attention deficits. To cope with their complex lives, caregivers also may be prone to develop dependence on alcohol, smoking, prescription drugs and psychotropic drugs for mood enhancement. Caregivers also tend to have higher obesity rates.6
To help family members who are caring for a loved one with cancer, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York developed a support program that included webcasts with staged therapeutic interactions between therapists and informal caregivers, and a message board where study participants could post responses to experiential exercise questions. Initial results found that program participants experienced reduced symptoms of depression.7
Technological advances may also help ease caregiving challenges. For example, wearable devices can monitor heart rate and blood pressure, among other vitals. These devices can be linked to mobile phone apps, alerting a caregiver of any changes that might trigger a serious health issue.8
Some wearable devices use GPS and geofencing technologies to track patients, allowing them more mobility while also helping caregivers monitor patients’ locations. Newer devices use artificial intelligence to recognize trends in vital signs or movement that can lead to health or injury concerns.9
Regardless of what innovations the technology industry creates to aid caregivers, there is some comfort in knowing that the primary skills necessary in a caregiver cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence or a robot. Human caregivers not only offer compassion, empathy and the ability to meet retirees’ emotional needs, but these soft skills can be learned and improved — which will prove to be a critical sector of our workforce in years to come.10
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
1 Advisor News. Nov. 1, 2017. “92% Of Caregivers Are Financial Caregivers.” https://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/92-caregivers-financial-caregivers#.WgOptLaZOfU. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.
5 Kathy Birkett. Senior Care Corner. “How Are YOU, Family Caregiver — Are You Caring for Yourself?” http://seniorcarecorner.com/family-caregiver-caring-for-yourself. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.
7 Meg Barbor. The ASCO Post. April 25, 2017. “Attrition High but Positive Trends Observed in Web-Based Intervention Addressing Caregiver Burden.” http://www.ascopost.com/issues/april-25-2017/attrition-high-but-positive-trends-observed-in-web-based-intervention-addressing-caregiver-burden/. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.
8 1-800-HomeCare. Oct. 12, 2017. “What Are the Top Emerging Tech Trends for Home Care In 2017?” https://www.1800homecare.com/homecare/new-tech/. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.
10 Harry Welchel. ChirpyHire. July 31, 2017. “Senior Care and The Future of Work.” http://blog.chirpyhire.com/senior-care-and-the-future-of-work/. Accessed Dec. 4, 2017.
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