Protect Seniors from Fraud
She awakens in the morning still exhausted after a fitful night of sleep and immediately feels overwhelmed. There's the report due at work today that she hasn't had time to prepare, her son's afternoon soccer practice and a school board meeting that night.
And, she's also a family caregiver for a senior - meaning she has to find time for her mother, who's 84-years-old and lives at home alone.
Her mother can't drive anymore, or reach into the cupboard to pull out a cereal box, or even see well enough to take her correct medication dosages. And today, just like yesterday, there are no easy answers about how to fit her mom into the never-ending juggling act that, for her, is just a typical day.
This is the life of the family caregiver - who totals one in every four Americans, according to various studies. New evidence and interviews with long term care family caregivers reveal a disturbing trend of the debilitating stress that often accompanies this role, although most still say that, in spite of the challenges, the job also comes with many rewards.
A recent stress test conducted by the Home Instead Senior Care® network demonstrated that of the family caregivers who participated, more than three-fourths (77 percent) reported their aging loved one's needs to be overwhelming, 90 percent said they have episodes of feeling anxious or irritable, 77 percent say caregiving is taking a toll on their family lives, and 56 percent seem to become ill more frequently.
"Every day we encounter these family caregivers who love and want the best for their aging family members, but don't know how to fit it all in," said Jeff Huber, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Home Instead Senior Care network. "For these people, stress is a constant companion."
The following stories are but a few true-life family caregiving stress examples.
Arlene Romilly, a nurse practitioner from Pittsburgh, PA, moved her parents into her home prior to her mother's death in September of 2005.
"It became so stressful as my mom's memory faded and she could no longer cope with daily activities without direction," Romilly said." "And my father just wasn't capable of being a caregiver. This created distraction for me at work. I had problems sleeping and was neglecting my own health care. For a while, I was treated for depression."
Things are better now that Romilly has a Home Instead Senior Care CAREGiver to look out for her father while she's at work. But in spite of the challenges, she believes the joys of elder care caregiving helped balance out the stress. "I was pleased to be able to care for my family," she said.
And Cat Tenorio, of Grass Valley, CA, had just been promoted to a new position at her accounting job when she gave it up to care for her mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
"As my mother's Alzheimer's worsened, I had to move her into my bedroom because she was wandering," Tenorio said. "Consequently, I didn't sleep at night, and when she would sleep during the day, I would take sleep medication so I could, too. I gradually became addicted to it."
That's when Tenorio's husband had to step in and say, "We can't do this anymore." They moved her mother to a convalescent home, where she was comfortable until she died three months later. And instead of going back to her accounting career, Tenorio became a Home Instead CAREGiver so she could help others in elder care situations similar to hers.
These examples each illustrate how extremely important support is to the overall equation - it's one of the key survival tools for any family health care caregiver.
According to Patricia Volland, MSW MBA, senior vice president of The New York Academy of Medicine and director of the Academy's Social Work Leadership Institute, "This generation of seniors is living longer, and their children often are still raising families. They're not prepared for their older parents' needs, and the dynamic between adult children and aging parents is not a simple one."
In an effort to better prepare the social workers they train, Volland and her team commissioned a study, released late last year, entitled Squeezed Between Children and Older Parents: A Survey of Sandwich Generation Women1. The poll, which surveyed women ages 35 to 54, showed that more than 60 percent of women concerned about an aging relative's health said they have difficulty managing stress, compared with 48 percent of women for whom an aging relative's health was not a concern.
Women concerned about an aging relative's health were about three times more likely (34 percent) to say they worry "a great deal" about having enough time for family than those who were not responsible for the care of an aging loved one (12 percent).
"Working through the maze of helping a loved one can be more than a full-time job," Volland said. "Social workers are uniquely trained to provide comprehensive care coordination. This begins with a comprehensive assessment, which includes identifying resources, managing the complexity of the relationships between the many care systems people encounter such as health, payment, and formal and informal supportive services, as well as dealing with family dynamics."
Social workers and other senior care experts often recommend resources like Home Instead Senior Care to help the elderly remain independent and their family caregivers manage stress. Home Instead CAREGivers provide older adults companionship and assistance with meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication reminders, shopping and errands - thus providing a valuable respite for weary family caregivers, as well.
"Our services can be just what harried family members need to help fill in caregiving gaps they may be experiencing, as well as to alleviate the stress and worry that caregiving can bring to their lives," said Hogan. "Most family caregivers agree that there are many rewards associated with this job, and that additional support can make all the difference."
If you're currently experiencing caregiver stress, try the following senior services survival tools recommended by Home Instead Senior Care:
For more helpful tips and information, visit www.caregiverstress.com.
1. Online at www.socialworkleadership.org.
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