Caring for a loved one is extremely gratifying and fulfilling, but it can also be mentally and physically draining. Millions of Americans will undertake the responsibilities of informal caregiving this year alone. With the trend growing, Oaks Senior Living wants to ensure family caregivers know their options.
Oaks Senior Living would like to help family caregivers better understand and navigate the caregiver journey to help avoid caregiver burnout and promote healthy caregiving. We want to share what respite care services are, and how these services can benefit the caregiver as well as the senior in your life.
Did You Know? Family Caregiver Facts
A family caregiver (also referred to as an informal caregiver) is an unpaid individual who provides care and assistance to a family member or loved one. Family caregivers are typically a spouse, a close friend, or a relative. These caregivers usually help the recipient of care by assisting with the daily activities of living, such as mobility, medication, eating, dressing, etc.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, it was estimated in 2015 that 43.5 million Americans had undertaken the role of an informal caregiver, now that estimate has jumped to over 65 million Americans.
- Nearly one in four family caregivers provide over 40 hours of care a week.
- The average length of care from a family caregiver is four years, with 30% providing care for a year or less, 24% provide care for five or more years, and 15% provide care for ten or more years.
- A majority of family caregivers (53-68%) are women.
While men are present in these responsibilities and undertakings, women typically provide the most hours of care per week at 21.9 hours (versus 17.4 hours for men). Women are also more likely to do the more difficult tasks asked of a caregiver, such as helping with bathing or toileting, with men more likely to assist with the finances or seeking other care options.
Family caregivers place the most stress on themselves, as they believe it is up to them to take care of their relatives. While this is admirable, caregiver health is just as important as the health of your loved one.
Of the 43 million taking care of a loved one in 2015, over 15 million were taking care of a family member with Alzheimer’s disease. Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can be especially difficult. While the early stages of Alzheimer’s can be manageable, as the condition progresses, the harder care can become. While those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease can use respite care services, we highly recommend considering a memory care neighborhood, such as Oaks’ Horizon Memory Care.
There’s a lot of care and attention that goes into being a family caregiver. Billions of hours go into caregiving tasks every year, and as the senior population is set to increase, the number of family caregivers will increase as well.
The value of these responsibilities has also steadily increased over time. In 2013, the value of these services was estimated to be over $470 billion, which was up from the $375 billion in 2007. The value of informal caregivers exceeds the total amount spent on Medicaid and private home care.
What Are Respite Care Services?
For those family caregivers who need time for themselves to recharge, respite care services give caregivers time away from those they care for on a daily basis. This temporary relief offers them an opportunity to take a break from the daily routines and challenges they experience when caring for an elderly loved one. Because of this, respite care is known as the 'gift of time.'
This type of care can be planned or used in case of an emergency and can be used to support a family caregiver or provide relief when they cannot complete their loved one’s care.
How Do Respite Care Services Help?
Whether you use respite care services for a day or a week, they can provide a caregiver with the rest they need or the ability to tend to other responsibilities.
Not only can respite care help your loved one by connecting them with professionally trained caregivers, but it also allows them to experience the benefits of a senior living community. Respite care services give your loved one full access to a community without a long-term commitment.
Our Oaks Senior Living communities throughout Georgia, encourage seniors and their families to take advantage of these services. The senior in your life can participate in our engaging activities and see the difference a true family-operated community can create for you and your loved one.
Caregiver Health & Burnout
Caregiver burnout is the state in which a caregiver can experience physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion when balancing the responsibilities of caregiving with their own personal wants, needs, and duties. Caregiver burnout can cause many issues for the caregiver and the recipient of care. During caregiver burnout, one may experience increased feelings of anxiety and stress, which can lead to a decrease in the quality of care he or she can provide to their loved one.
Caregiver burnout can occur due to many different circumstances, but the most common ones tend to be:
Unrealistic expectations: Some caregivers may expect their involvement to have immediate positive health effects on their loved ones, especially when caring for a loved one with a memory impairment. These unrealistic expectations can make a caregiver feel like they aren’t helping enough, which will cause them to push themselves too far.
Lack of control: With family caregiving, there is always some lack of control. From their loved one’s health to overall finances, caregivers may become frustrated with what they can’t control instead of seeking to understand what they can control in the situation.
Role confusion: Role confusion is especially common with informal caregivers undertaking the care of a spouse or parent. When placed in a stressful situation like caregiving, the caregiver may confuse their role or find it difficult to separate their relationship with the recipient of care (wife/husband, daughter/son, etc.) from their caregiving responsibilities.
Unreasonable demands: Similar to unrealistic expectations, family caregivers may place unreasonable demands on themselves that they can’t possibly hope to achieve. For instance, a caregiver with a full-time job may attempt to juggle both responsibilities causing them to be overworked and exhausted. On the other side of this concern comes family members who place these demands on the family caregivers.
Caregiver burnout can also occur when a family caregiver neglects their own needs and desires or when they feel as if the responsibilities were handed to them, and that they were unable to say “no.” A family caregiver must recognize the state of mind associated with caregiver burnout. Typically the longer the care goes on for, the higher the chance of burnout. A 2015 report by the AARP stated that nearly half of the family caregivers surveyed rated caregiving responsibilities as highly stressful.
What Does Caregiver Burnout Look Like?
Caregiver burnout and the symptoms vary from caregiver to caregiver. However, some common symptoms associated with caregiver burnout include:
- Being withdrawn from family and friends
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Increased irritability or feelings of depression
- A weaker immune system, i.e. getting sick more frequently
Caregiver burnout comes with serious consequences for the caregiver and the recipient of care. While it can be hard to think about moving a loved one into a senior living community, long-term or short-term, it may end up being the best solution for all parties involved.
Utilizing Respite Care Services
Because family caregivers work around the clock, caregivers must take care of themselves so they can maintain their health. Respite care promotes a healthy lifestyle for both the senior and the caregiver. While the caregiver receives personal time to prevent 'burnout,' the senior gets the care they need as well as socialization opportunities with other seniors.
Respite care services allow caregivers to take anywhere from a couple of hours to a few weeks off and provides the freedom to go on vacation while their loved one is still receiving the love, care, and attention they require. At Oaks Senior Living, we encourage our family caregivers to use our respite care services for things like exercising, work, meeting a friend for lunch, or even traveling for work.
It is important when caregivers use respite care that they do not feel any guilt that may come with needing a break from caring for their loved ones. It is often suggested that they feel as if they are pushing the responsibility on to the respite caregiver, which is not the case. Caregiving is a job that cannot be successfully done alone. A family caregiver must have a strong support system behind them to help - and respite care provides them that support in times of need.
Depending on the need, a person may select in-home care or respite care at a senior living community. Both options offer similar services, including help with dressing, bathing, laundry, and medication reminders. For older adults living with dementia, like Alzheimer's disease, higher levels of assistance may be available. For those seniors, we recommend visiting a facility for respite care, as it offers a safe and secure environment that prevents wandering.
When is it Time for Respite Care?
If you begin feeling the symptoms of caregiver burnout, it may be time to consider utilizing respite care services. However, it’s important to remember that respite care services are available no matter the situation. As a family caregiver, you don’t have to wait until you are overwhelmed to reach out for help and support.
Again, respite care services do not require any form of commitment, so your loved one can stay there for a day or even a few weeks. While they are at the community, they will be treated as a full-fledged resident and have access to every event, activity, and amenity the community has to offer.
Have additional questions about respite care and whether it is the right choice for you and your loved one? We'd love to hear from you! Find your closest Oaks Senior Living community and reach out to us directly. Our team is here to support you and your family in your time of need in any way we can.
This blog was updated on January 15th, 2020