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3 Ways Professional Caregiving Assistance Benefits Family Caregivers

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When Maria finally noticed the lump, it was too late to save the breast—though luckily doctors saved her life. Maria ended up having a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy, and today she is in remission from her breast cancer. But she wonders if things could have been different.

“I skipped the mammogram for five years,” she says, “because I just didn’t have time to do it.”

As a family caregiver, Maria had spent nearly a decade juggling work, children and caring for her husband, who had experienced a debilitating stroke that left him unable to work, though thankfully he regained the ability to dress and feed himself. Day after day, Maria would rise an hour early to help her husband shower and prepare his lunch before she left for a grueling commute and long workday. Every evening she would help him with physical therapy exercises to continue improving his mobility and independence. When, exactly, could she squeeze in a mammogram?

Maria’s situation is not uncommon. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than one in five women caregivers said they reduced the frequency of their mammograms. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the health consequences of caregiving. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that family caregivers also are more likely to suffer from major depression and heart disease. Older spouses who care for their husband or wife face a higher mortality rate than non-caregiving spouses. Caregiving also impacts the bottom line: compared to non-caregivers, women caregivers report being twice as likely not to fill a prescription due to the cost.

What can be done to help these selfless individuals preserve their own health and well-being? One strategy that shows promise is paid in-home caregiving assistance. This service can benefit family caregivers in three key ways.

1. Improved physical health

Research by Home Instead, Inc. , franchisor for the Home Instead Senior Care® network, provides data to support the idea that using paid in-home caregiving assistance can benefit the health of family caregivers: over the course of one year, 25 percent of caregivers not using professional caregiving assistance reported needing some type of outpatient hospital care compared to just 19 percent of caregivers who did utilize in-home caregiving. In addition, family caregivers perceive their health to be better when they employ professional caregivers: 10 percent of respondents in this group said their health worsened over the preceding 12 months, while 14 percent of those who did not use paid in-home caregiving said their health had declined. Clearly, receiving care assistance in the home can benefit family caregiver health in many ways.

2. Reduced risk of depression

The stress of caregiving is a well-known risk factor for depression. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that “estimates show between 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have clinically significant signs of depression.” One way to alleviate some of the stress of family caregivers is through the use of paid in-home assistance. Data from research conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor for the Home Instead Senior Care network, show that seniors with professional caregiving assistance receive, on average, nearly 90 hours of total care per week, while seniors who rely on family members receive just 35 hours of care each week.

Family caregivers report that they believe “more care” equals “better care” for their loved one, which undoubtedly relieves some of the stress they feel regarding their own inability to devote as many hours to caregiving as they would like their family member to have. Reducing a caregiver’s stress in this way may reduce her risk of developing depression.

3. Improved caregiver finances and access to care

According to research from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 60 percent of employee-caregivers who were surveyed said they had made accommodations in their work status as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. These accommodations included cutting back on hours (and thereby losing benefits of full-time work), taking a leave of absence, or other such impacts.

When caregivers lose income or healthcare benefits, they may be less likely to fill prescriptions or see a medical professional early in the course of an illness—when care is more effective and less costly. On the other hand, using paid in-home caregiving assistance allows family caregivers to remain in the workforce, maintain their healthcare benefits and continue receiving their full salary. This enables them to attend to their own health needs instead of sacrificing them to care for a loved one.

As a senior care professional, you have the opportunity to help improve the health and well-being of family caregivers by guiding them to care support resources. When appropriate, consider recommending they investigate adding paid in-home care to their loved one’s care plan.

If you’d like to learn more about how professional caregiving assistance benefits family caregivers, download the white paper: Paid In-Home Care: Improving the Lives of Family Caregivers

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