What an appropriate month to give thanks to the millions of people who sacrifice so much to provide care for their loved ones as well as the millions of professional caregivers who provide medical healthcare to our elderly. The Care Action Network (CAN) has themed this year’s Caregiving month with one word, respite. Respite is the chance to take a breather, the opportunity to re-energize and it is as important as any other item on your caregiver’s to-do list. People think of respite as a luxury, but considering caregivers’ increased risk for health issues from chronic stress, respite is crucial to a caregiver and is the key to their own well-being.
Caregiving statistics each year become more and more staggering. In June, Caregiving.org put together a research report with surveys conducted by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving. The probability of providing care for a parent or other family member is high:
- 5 million adults have provided unpaid care to an adult in the past 12 months;
- Of that 34.2 million have provided unpaid care to an adult over age 50;
- 60% of all caregivers are female and 40% are male;
- The average age of a caregiver is 49;
- A caregiver spends on average 24.4 hours a week providing care;
- A quarter of caregivers provide more than 41 hours a week of care;
- 87% of their time is spent assisting with at least 2 out of the 7 activities of daily living.
Providing respite is just one way to help our caregivers stay on track with their own lives. But first the caregiver has to recognize the importance of time off and that starts with asking for help. Make a laundry list of all of the things you have to do (cooking, laundry, rides to doctor appointments, picking up prescriptions, mowing the lawn, paying bills, filling out insurance forms). Then break these items down into distinct tasks such as personal care, household chores, transportation, etc. Armed with a logical list it will be easier to ask for help in different areas. Asking for help with a list in hand is much different than complaining to someone about all the things you have to do. Creating the list helps to clear the air a bit and gives you a tool to ask for help.
Some caregivers have found that technology can be very useful. A smartphone for aging adults has been designed by Samsung (Galaxy Touch3). It has been made specifically for older adults and intended to be an assist for caregivers. The phone has a pre-installed app called GreatCall and allows the user one touch access to health and safety services. It is linked to the caregiver’s phone and the caregiver can get updates such as, what is he doing or where is he; it will also alert the caregiver when an emergency call is made to 5Star (which functions like OnStar, but for aging adults).
BeClose is another bit of technology that can provide a caregiver with peace of mind for those hours that their loved one is home alone. It uses discreet wireless sensors that are placed throughout the home and will track the movements and activities of your loved one. As a caregiver, you can check on them by going to a secure, private website; if there are any changes to the daily routine, the caregiver is sent an alert (real time) by email, text or phone.
Caregivers often feel isolated and burdened and have difficulty sharing the problems of caregiving with people who have never had to provide care. Networking for caregivers is extensive through on-line forums as well as local “meet up” groups. Even the state of CT provides respite services (search on ct.gov website for Department of Developmental Services Respite); Department of Aging, Alzheimer’s Association are just a few resources. Google “caregiving” and you will likely find a group or forum that you can relate to.
A tremendous thanks to all caregivers who provide the needed love, time and tolerance to caring for a loved one.
Roberta L. Nestor is a financial advisor practicing at 491 New Haven Avenue in Milford, CT offering retirement, long term care, investment and tax planning services. She also offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network – a member FINRA/SIPC and a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products offered through Nestor Financial Network are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. Commonwealth Financial Network or Nestor Financial Network does not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation. Roberta can be reached at Nestor Financial Network, 203-876-8066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.