Caregiving: It’s grueling, yet gratifying; stressful, yet satisfying; and a job that many parents, spouses and adult children perform without hesitation or compensation.
In the age of the coronavirus, some caregivers who once had assistance from home health aides and time off when their loved ones were in school, or at day programs, have found themselves in full-time caregiving roles (in addition to full-time jobs, and other family responsibilities).
Meanwhile, family members who weren’t caregivers before, have been forced to become caregivers after loved ones have contracted COVID-19.
Medicareplanfinder.com has compiled the following statistics about caregiving — a frequently overlooked role.
- Over 75% of all caregivers are female.
- Up to one in four caregivers works 41 hours or more each week providing care.
- Family caregivers residing with those they care for, spend 40.5 hours a week caring for that person.
- Those who care for a partner or spouse spend 44.6 hours a week executing caregiving activities.
- Those who care for a child under the age of 18 devote 29.7 hours a week on caregiving activities.
- Of family caretakers who provide chronic care, 46% carry out medical and nursing duties, and over 96% help with daily living activities or instrumental activities of daily living.
Although many caregivers relish the time they spend caring for their loved ones, the consequences of their selflessness are significant. According to Caregiver.com:
- 11% of caregivers state that their role has caused their physical health to decline.
- 45% of caregivers reported chronic conditions, including heart attacks, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
- Caregivers have a 23% higher level of stress hormones and 15% lower level of antibody responses than non-caregivers.
- 10% of primary caregivers report that they are under physical stress from the demands of assisting their loved one physically.
- Women who spend 9 or more hours a week caring for a spouse increased their risk of heart disease by 100%.
- 72% of caregivers report that they had not gone to the doctor as often as they should have.
- 58% of caregivers state that their eating habits are worse than before they assumed this role.
Caregiver.com recommends caregivers be on the lookout for the following symptoms of caregiver burnout:
“…changes in appetite, weight or both; feeling blue, hopeless, irritable, or helpless; withdrawal from friends and family; changes in sleep patterns; getting sick more often; feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring; loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed; emotional and physical exhaustion; and irritability.”
Fortunately, you can prevent caregiving burnout by following these recommendations, some of which may have to wait until the coronavirus pandemic is over:
- Stay on top of your own physical and mental health needs by scheduling appointments with doctors and therapists.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Stick with an exercise plan.
- Eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated.
- Find someone you trust who can take care of your family member when you need a break.
- Take advantage of respite care programs.
- Consider a family leave from your job.
- See if you can reduce some of your non-caregiving responsibilities such as cleaning or cooking.
- Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
Take good care during this very challenging time!