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Informal Caregivers Carry a Heavy Burden | Generations Home Care
An informal caregiver helps an older women watch a video on an iPhone

Recent studies show a rise in informal caregivers taking caring roles for friends and family members. There are many reasons one comes to care for a loved one, but often the challenges, and the toll for playing such a part, are not clear for some time. As a result, more and more caregivers develop health concerns of their own that make caring for their friend or family increasingly difficult.

A caregiver assists people who have limitations due to illness, physical challenges, and aging in meeting their daily needs. For many different reasons, this responsibility often falls on spouses, siblings, children, and friends. While the physical, mental, financial, and emotional impacts may not be obvious to begin with, over time, caregivers often find themselves overburdened by the staggering amount of work involved. 

Caring for someone in these circumstances can be extremely rewarding. However, the responsibilities and physical demands do take their toll. It is often the case that informal caregivers are unaware of reaching the point when the burden becomes too great and the need for formal help is necessary, not only for the well-being of the care recipient but also for the informal caregiver. As the need for caregiving increases, so too does the concern for the caregiver.  

The Difference Between Formal and Informal Caregiving

A caregiver is most often responsible for activities of daily living, or ADLs, such as bathing, eating, shopping, toileting, and transportation. They may also assist with housework and making meals. An informal caregiver is usually a friend or family member who performs their duties without pay or training. According to research by the AARP, more than 65.7 million Americans serve as informal caregivers. They spend an average of 33 hours a week providing care, often while maintaining jobs and raising children

A formal caregiver is a professional who has has had training and education for the job. They are able to assist with ADLs and other non-medical chores. Formal caregivers are also provided with valuable resources and have the time and emotional distance to recharge without becoming overburdened. This is not the case with informal caregivers. 57% of informal caregivers feel they do not have a choice when it comes to clinical tasks yet do so because they feel it is their responsibility.

Overburdened informal caregivers can find much-needed relief with the help of their professional counterparts. When families must decide how to allocate caregiving duties, they should consider the following questions: 

  • How much time is required to care for the individual, and will it increase over time?
  • How many friends and family members can provide care without too much stress falling on one person?
  • Are there specialized medical needs that an informal caregiver cannot properly provide?

Mental and Physical Consequences of Caring for a Loved One 

Being an informal caregiver has many rewarding qualities. However, the emotional and physical effects pose a risk that you should not neglect. Recognizing the impact on caregivers and working toward prevention is a priority. In order to maintain a functional system of long-term care, informal caregivers need the support and resources available to keep them physically and mentally healthy. The most common health risks for informal caregivers are depression, stress, anxiety, diminished immune response, and chronic conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, or diabetes.  

Create a Care Plan

Understanding the likelihood of additional stress upon a caretaker’s mental and physical health makes establishing a care plan essential. Identifying needs and setting goals will encourage communication between the caregiver and recipient. A basic care plan includes details about health conditions, emergency contacts, medications, and health care providers. It is a tool meant to be adapted to fit that of the users with the main objective being to provide clarity between caretakers, family members, and the care recipient. By establishing a clear structure, the potential for stress and uncertainty is reduced. Combined with the support of a care team and/or support groups, a personalized care plan is crucial to the well being of the caretaker.

Seek Respite Care

Respite care is another option that gives the caregiver time to recharge while ensuring their loved ones still receive care. Respite care provides temporary assistance with ADL’s, allowing the caregiver to attend to their own needs such as running errands, going to the doctor or simply resting. Unfortunately, many informal caregivers are unaware that this option is available. Here in Arizona, Generations Home Care offers qualified respite care to informal caregivers throughout the Phoenix-metro. Trying out respite care will also ease the burden of having to make last-minute care choices during a crisis.

The decline in caregiver health is one of the leading reasons families seek out professional care. According to a recent study by the AARP, caregiver health has declined in the last five years. This statistic is consistent throughout multiple studies regarding gender, race, income, those who had a choice, and those who felt they did not. As caregiver health continues to decline, the ability to efficiently tend to the care recipient becomes increasingly difficult. Seeking the help of a professional caretaker is often found to be the healthiest choice for all.

About Generations Home Care

Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and more independent life.

Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.

Our Specialty Services Include:

  • Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
  • Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
  • Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
  • Veteran’s connection to care program.
  • Live-in services and couples care.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.

About the author - Josh Friesen

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