Caregiving Affects Mental, Physical and Financial Health
Over the past decade there have been more and more family caregivers. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance website, more than 43 million caregivers in the U.S. provide care for someone age 50 or older. As baby boomers get older, this number is expected to drastically increase.
Traditionally, women have been the primary family caregiver; however, research suggests the number of male caregivers is on the rise due to a variety of social demographic issues. These include changes in gender roles, more women in the labor force, longer life spans, family size, and geographic family separation.
Caring for an older adult can affect a caregiver's physical and mental health and cause financial hardship. Often family caregivers neglect their health issues because they are focused on providing care for their loved ones. Additionally, many of them face difficulty scheduling regular medical appointments and screenings due to their demanding routines.
Typically, family caregivers experience stress from their caregiving responsibilities. When stress is ineffectively managed, it can lead to caregiver burnout, poor life satisfaction, isolation, and depression. Research indicates that nearly 20 percent of family caregivers suffer from depression, which is twice the rate of the general population.
To provide adequate care, many people quit jobs, rearrange work schedules, change careers, or spend savings and retirement. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 47 percent of working caregivers reported an increase in caregiver expenses that caused them to use up all or most of their savings.
Often caregivers do not know where to turn for support; however, seeking a caregiver support group is the best antidote to address caregiver frustrations. Studies have shown that caregiver support groups are effective in helping family caregivers cope. These groups provide professional and emotional support and offer encouragement, and foster hope.
Caregiver support groups provide connections with other caregivers who understand because they have the same or similar experience. Furthermore, caregiver support groups provide information about support services such as respite, caregiver counseling, and self-care workshops.
To find a caregiver support group in your area, contact Senior Information & Assistance at 206-448-3110 (toll-free 1-888-435-3377) or firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the providers listed on the King County Caregiver Support Network website.
Michael Lusk, an aging network professional, serves on the Seattle Mayor's Council on African American Elders.
Michael Lusk holds a masters degree in Counseling Psychology and B.A. in Gerontology, and has more than 15 years experience working with the aging population.