Statistic shows that more than 50 million people provide home care for chronically ill, disabled or senior family members and friends. The National Family Caregivers Association says that 25% of all American households are already in the process of caring for other members of the family. Surprisingly, men make 44% of the care giving population.
The toll on non-medical home health caregivers is sometimes very high. Research shows some alarming numbers:
- Those who care for family members for more than 36 hours a week, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. Spouse’s rate is 6 times as high and for those caring for an elderly parent the rate is twice as high.
- Family caregivers experience sleeplessness 51% more than non-care givers.
- Family caregivers experience on average 41% increase in back pain.
- The stress is known to impact family caregivers’ immune system for up to 3 years after the care giving has been stopped, increasing the chances of the caregiver developing chronic diseases as well.
- Spousal caregivers, especially with the elderly, who have a chronic disease themselves, have a 63% higher mortality rate.
What can you do for yourself if you are providing non-medical home health care?
Take care of yourself – It is not being selfish, but a must. Research shows that competing demands of prolonged stress, physical demands and prior obligations put the caregiver in a higher risk of health problems and even an earlier death. If the caregiver cannot take of himself/herself, how can he/she give proper care? This way everybody loses.
Have some personal time – Insist on it. Even a short time when you can do something that you enjoy, can do wonders to your soul. Do it as part of a per-determined schedule and without feeling guilty! You’ve earned it.
Protect your body – If your caregiving involves lifting and moving, learn how to do it properly so you will not hurt your back. If your loved one is going through physical therapy, ask for advice who to handle the physical part of your caregiving.
Use Technology – Learn what is out there in technology, computer programs, iPad, that can help you in the caregiving. Teach your loved ones how to use them. Being able to see each other, even from a great distance, through an iPad conversation, can really alleviate some of the pressure.
Join a support group – A support group for caregivers who go through what you are going through, is a wonderful opportunity to unload your worries without paying the price of individual psychological therapy. Being able to voice your feelings with a group of people in the same situation is a great pressure valve.
Watch for signs of depression – Irritability with everything around you, anxiety, changes in your sleeping or eating patterns and exhaustion might all be signs of depression.
Get Help – There are agencies that deal with medical and non-medical home health care. They will help you evaluate your situation and will recommend the level of care that is needed. Most of those companies will allow a limited schedule of a few hours a day or a few times a week. This kind of help, even for a few hours, will help you, the caregiver, get a new balance on life and allow for quality time with your loved one.