Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Survive the Stress of Care Giving

The statistics are staggering. Today there are 54,000 people over 100 years of age living in the United States. That number is projected to soar to an incredible 350,000 by the year 2050. The fact is that people are living longer with chronic illnesses and 21 percent of adults today care for someone an average of 20 hours per week. That unpaid care equals 18 percent of our national health care spending and these numbers are set to increase drastically.

Elder care giving can be especially complex given the personal, health and financial challenges that accompany caring for an older family member or friend. The stressful situations that occur between adult children and aging parents can be detrimental to the health and well-being of all concerned. In these situations, it is especially important that caregivers manage their own well-being at all times.

Dr. Jim McCabe, Geriatric Care Manager, President of Eldercare Resources and CSA Instructor, is on the front line of these complex issues every day. Over a period of more than 25 years, he has assisted hundreds of families in planning elder care and long term care planning. Jim was the host of last week’s timely CSA webinar “CAREGIVER BURNOUT: Managing the Challenges of Caregiving”. CSAs can view the webinar in the Member Resources section of the CSA website.

Communication is Key
Jim provides some tips for caregivers to help lessen the physical, emotional, behavioral and financial stresses associated with the complicated situation of caring for a loved one in need. Caregivers should recognize that caregiving is often difficult. Role changes, family history and generational differences are often complicated by communication problems. Most families have little or no experience talking about medical or financial issues so there is no history or ground rules for these conversations. One way to combat this is to have these conversations at the most optimal time and to understand the reservations that your loved one has. Is your mother at her best in the morning? Does your father communicate well after his nap in the afternoon? Is your mother-in-law comfortable talking about her health and her money? Is privacy the first concern for your uncle? Knowing how they feel about these issues and speaking to them when they are best able to participate in the conversation will help to make the difficult conversations a little easier.

Respite Care Is a Necessity, Not a Luxury
Many caregivers do not survive the caregiving process. Physical and emotional stress can lead to chronic illness, substance abuse and isolation. Managing your own well-being is as important as taking care of the one you love. It is important to remember to vent your feelings. A support group can be a great outlet for sharing and networking. Everyday stress management is important and meditation and keeping up your leisure activities goes a long way to sustaining well being. By simplifying life, developing plans and building networks a caregiver can help ease the stress of caring for a loved one.

Many of you have become Certified Senior Advisors as a result of your own experience caring for a loved one. Have you found caregiving stressful? How has your experience benefitted your clients? What networks have been the most helpful? Please share your story with us.


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