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The Stressful Nature of Being a Family Caregiver

The graying of America steadily increases as Baby Boomers continue to age. According to a 2018 Caregiver Homes , every day 10,000 people turn 65 years old. All those seniors will need some form of care at some point. However, with the high costs of nursing facilities and seniors’ unsurprising reluctance to move from their homes, many spouses and adult children are instead becoming family caregivers to their loved ones, which is no small feat.
 
Deciding to become a family caregiver is an incredibly selfless act. Many however, do not consider all the ramifications before making this choice. It doesn’t just mean that you’re dedicating a significant part of your life to care for someone you love. It also means sacrificing time with your own family, and even work. It can also be highly debilitating to your physical, emotional, and mental health. Being a family caregiver a rewarding experience but it’s also extremely stressful, exhausting, and sometimes depressing. It’s crucial then, for family caregivers to identify stressors and symptoms and do something about it before it gets worse.
 
Adult day cares are beneficial to both family caregivers and their charges for many reasons. This article will explore them in further detail.
 
Common Stressors of being a Family Caregiver
Lack of Training. Many family caregivers have no formal training. This is incredibly stressful, as they’re suddenly expected to do complex medical tasks such as administering injections, taking blood pressure, or changing dressings. And what happens in the case of an emergency?
 
Lack of Support. Often times the role of family caregiver falls to one person, as adult siblings or other family members may be living far away. Family caregivers have also experienced a lack of support from health professionals. A National Center for Biotechnology Information article found that when seniors are discharged from the hospital, family caregivers aren’t given enough training or emotional support in caring for them at home.
 
Financial-related Stress. Caring for a senior can be very expensive. Medication, renting/purchasing medical equipment, hospital visits, and physical therapy appointments add up. Insurance doesn’t always cover the costs so the responsibility again falls upon the caregiver, who may be forced to cut down on work hours to spend more time with their loved one. There may be additional costs to consider such as the senior’s rent, groceries, or gas.
 
Family-related Stress. Family caregivers have been referred to as the “sandwich generation”, as they have to take care of their elderly parents and children. Many family caregivers struggle to devote equal attention to their own families, but it’s very difficult. Children and spouses are often unintentionally neglected.
Physical Exhaustion. Family caregivers are constantly on the move. Whether it’s helping their loved one get dressed, driving to the doctor, cleaning the house, cooking, assisting with physical therapy, or literally lifting them from a wheelchair to a couch, family caregivers are physically exhausted at the end of the day.
Mental Exhaustion. On top of juggling work and family, family caregivers are constantly worrying and thinking about their elderly loved one. Their minds are preoccupied with things like monitoring their health and appearance, researching various medical options and other related issues, and communicating with their physicians.
Emotional Exhaustion. Many family caregivers are adult children caring for their parents. It’s disheartening for them to see their once strong, independent parent in a weakened, sometimes helpless state. It can be depressing to see a beloved parent with dementia slowly lose their mental faculties and not be able to do anything about it. To top things off, seniors sometimes get belligerent and combative with their family caregivers for various reasons.
Symptoms of Stress among Family Caregivers
Family caregivers are sometimes considered as “hidden patients”, dutifully completing their tasks while neglecting or being unaware of their own declining health. According to Daily Caring, about 45% of family caregivers reported having serious chronic conditions that include heart attacks, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Some family caregivers have actually died before their patients due to stress-related symptoms.
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increase in unhealthy habits (drinking, smoking)
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Feelings of resentment of their family caregiver role
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Digestive problems
  • High blood pressure, heart palpitations
  • Hair loss
  • Mood swings
 
It’s cheaper than a nursing home or in-home care. It’s not surprising that nursing home care is expensive, considering that such facilities provide room and board, in addition to medical, social, and personal care of its patients. According to Senior Living.org , the average daily cost for a private room is $225, while a semi-private room is $253. Assisted living facilities are about half the cost but still expensive, at roughly $119/day. Hiring a home health care aide is also pricey, at about $164 per day. In contrast, the average cost of adult daycare is only $70 a day.
 
It gives peace of mind. As a family caregiver, you can take comfort that your elderly family member is not sitting home alone all day while you’re at work. Instead, he or she is being cared for by a team of professionals who provide them companionship, socialization, activities, exercise, medical care, and personal care.
 
Benefits of Adult Day Care to the Elderly Loved One
 
The elderly person maintains his/her independence. Nothing is more jarring to a person’s self-esteem than suddenly having to completely rely on someone else for help. It can be a very difficult reality to swallow for senior citizens. Some find it insulting and even demeaning. The feeling becomes worse when the person is forced to move out of the comfort of their home and live in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Adult day care allows the elderly loved one to stay home longer. They spend the whole day at the daycare facility but get to sleep at night in their own beds.
 
Adult day cares heavily promote socializing. It can get very lonely for a senior citizen who stays home all day with their family caregiver as their only source of companionship and conversation. By signing up with an adult day care facility, they can meet new people and make friends.
 
There are stimulating activities to keep the mind and body busy. On a similar note, a completely housebound elderly person can feel extremely bored, especially during the hours that their family caregiver isn’t there. Adult day cares provide a variety of fun activities to keep their guests engaged. These can include live entertainment, outings, arts and crafts, and exercise classes.
 
What to Look for in an Adult Day Care
 
Like any business, not all adult day cares are alike. Some are better than others, and some are more suitable for your family’s needs than others. Use these guidelines when searching for an adult day care.
 
  • What kind of adult day care is needed—social, medical, or specialized?
  • How much does it cost daily?
  • Is it a properly licensed facility?
  • What kind of training or certification does the staff have?
  • Does the place look clean and well-kept? Do the members look happy and engaged?
  • What’s the staff/member ratio?
  • Are meals and snacks included in the price?
  • What are the hours of operation? Are there half-day options available? Are these hours convenient for you as the family caregiver?
  • What are the activities/programs offered?
  • What medical services are provided by the staff?
  • What is the food like?
  • Is there available transportation to and from the facility? If so, is this an additional cost?
  • Pay several visits to the facility.
  • While visiting the facility, observe the relationship between the staff and members. How does the staff treat them?
  • Can you speak to a few reference families?
  • Can you speak to a few staff members?
  • Are there online reviews of the facility and staff?
 
As a family caregiver, it’s not only your job to care for your elderly family member. You need to care for yourself and your immediate family as well. Enrolling your senior family member into an adult day care facility will help preserve your mental, emotional, and even physical state. In return, your elderly family member will be surrounded by friends, keep busy with activities, and keep their minds stimulated and sharp.
If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about adult day cares, please visit the Sunshine Adult Care website for more details. Alternatively, you can call 845-473-6900 and one of our highly trained staff will be happy to answer your questions. You can also schedule a tour at either of our two locations.