53 million caregivers across the country provide unpaid care to older, often disabled adults. They set aside their own desires, time, and resources to adjust to a new and unexpected way of life. As many family members bear the sole responsibility of having to care for their aging loved ones, Kiss & Tell takes a moment to recognize and acknowledge them this National Family Caregivers Month.
For the past eight years, Monica has started her mornings at 6:00 AM in preparation to care for her now, 82-year-old mother. Strenuous morning routines consist of breakfast, medication, and, more often times than not, an exchange of words over something as minor as her tennis shoe choice for the day.
In 2015, as a full-time pharmacist and single mother, Monica already juggled responsibilities of her own when her mother began to suffer from dementia. Upon realizing that her mother could no longer be as self-sufficient as she once was, Monica decided to rearrange her life and home to also become a primary caregiver.
Caregivers Physical Toll
Simply put, caregiver burnout occurs when one begins to neglect their needs and health at the expense of taking care of an aging adult. It has been reported that 61% of caregivers in the United States are predominantly women who provide 26.7 average weekly hours of care in comparison to non-primary counterparts.
Depression, heightened senses of anxiety and irritation, as well as a loss of individuality are all common signs of burnout among those women who care for individuals that are 65 years and older (Aging Care).
The most effective way to avoid burnout is to be mindful of what your body is telling you. Whether that involves unplugging from social media during downtime, establishing attainable personal goals that you can reach throughout the day, or scheduling an appointment with your healthcare professional, relief is still possible.
Weighing the Cost
Various factors contribute to why guardians opt for the in-home care of their relatives. Whether it is a matter of finances, familiarity, or a more personal choice, they take an authoritative stake in their loved one’s well-being.
As one learns how round-the-clock caregiving affects the body and psyche, to remedy these problems, many may consider putting their family member in a nursing home. However, how realistic is that option for the average American? According to the American Council of Aging, the average cost of a facility’s shared room, per day, is $260. Now, while each state’s cost will vary, the Medicare that most older Americans have will only cover so much of their expenses.
For the first 20 days of a beneficiary’s stay in the home, 100% of their costs will be covered. From that point, for the next 79 days, the provider continues to pay a portion of the cost. In 2022; however, the resident became responsible for a co-pay of $194.50 per day. Upon that 100th day, Medicare ceases to pay at all.
In comparison, Medicaid will cover 100% of beneficiary care costs contingent upon set criteria such as a strictly limited income and minimal assets. Eligibility for this type of provision is also based on the state that one lives in and only covers the cost of a shared room, whereas the average out-of-pocket cost for a private room is typically about $108,405 per year.
Even if a family is fortunate enough to afford facility treatment, they will often still rely on in-home care because they fear for their loved ones’ safety. Today, nearly five million elderly Americans experience abuse on a yearly basis as 81% of staffers in a long-term care facility reported that they witnessed emotional abuse and 24% witnessed physical mistreatment. In the wake of risk factors such as poor training and understaffing in many establishments, organizations like the Nursing Home Abuse Center tirelessly advocate for victims and their families as statistics continue to rise around this horrific matter.
A Sense of Familiarity
Allowing a loved one to remain at home during their care eases a sense of anxiety for both the caregiver and their family member during this new aspect of life. By not having to move into an unfamiliar environment, the care recipient is able to maintain a sense of security and familiar possession.
They also remain accustomed to a certain routine in and around their home that does not have to be disrupted to fit a facility’s schedule. This is most important for the elderly who suffer from varying cases of dementia.
To the benefit of the caregiver, the pressure of having to sell their loved one’s home or other possessions to cover the cost of facility expenses is irradicated. At best, their relative may have to make the transition into their caregiver’s home to be best cared for during the slow progression of their disease.
Considering the Caregiver
As this month nears its end, entire families can be more mindful of ways to support caregivers year-round. Due to their own schedules, everyone may not have the time to sit in for a primary caregiver though. Offering assistance looks like helping them coordinate and manage a personal care plan for said loved one. Scheduling day dates for that loved one on days that caregivers are also off from work gives them a moment alone to decompress.
Aside from methods such as these, caregiver support progress like Powerful Tools for Caregivers and links through the Alzheimer’s Association offers free classes and support groups that help them maintain a sense of self as they navigate a new normal.