Just over half of people 50 and older in the United States regularly help an older person with health, personal and other needs. It is perhaps unsurprising that a majority see emotional or physical exhaustion as the highest price they pay.
On the other hand, the vast majority of the more than 2,100 adults randomly sampled for a survey on caregiving say helping an older person is more rewarding than not.
In July, the University of Michigan’s National Healthy Aging Survey asked 2,163 adults aged 50 to 80 in the United States about their experiences helping an adult over 65 with their health needs. of care. This includes making or attending doctor’s appointments; clean the house or do yard work; shopping or preparing meals; pay bills or do banking; dressing or bathing; manage medication; and coordination of care and health insurance.
The survey wanted to know what kind of assistance is offered to help older adults age in place rather than the level of support or its intensity, says Courtney Polenick, PhD, a caregiver researcher and assistant professor in UM’s Department of Psychiatry. As the elderly population is set to explode over the coming decades, it’s important to know where help is needed most — and how those who help need support, she says.
The report showed that 65% of caregivers say they struggle with emotional and physical fatigue, balancing work and care, time for themselves, and time with family and friends, in that order.
Those caring for an older person with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia – 28% of respondents – found caregiving to be the most stressful.
Other report findings:
• Married/coupled people with a university degree are more likely to be caregivers
• Slightly more than half of caregivers are between 50 and 64 years old
• Men represent 51% of the nursing workforce; women make up 56% (reported percentages use survey weights to reflect nationally representative estimates)
• The most common task caregivers said they had done in the past two years was assisting an older person with doctors
• Two-thirds of people who care for an elderly person do not live with them
• About half of respondents said they helped with 1 or 2 tasks; 29% said they participated in five or more care tasks.
Polenick says the survey results weren’t surprising, but there were other “notable” findings, including that 96% of respondents reported at least one positive aspect of help.
“We often think that helping an elderly person is stressful. However, an interesting finding is that almost everyone who provides help to older people experiences rewards: two-thirds report at least one challenge, but almost all get some type of reward. It was a discovery that I was happy to see,” she says.
A benefit, according to more than half of those surveyed, felt appreciated.
But nearly 60% of adults who provide elder care said it made them more aware of their own future health and personal care needs — a finding Polenick finds hopeful.
The National Healthy Aging Survey reports data collected by NORC at the University of Chicago for UM’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
Caregiver Coaching, a new program offered by the agency, aims to make caregiving easier by connecting caregivers with trained volunteer coaches who can help them navigate resources, overcome challenges and sometimes just listen.
Communications are typically done over the phone or Zoom using specific HIPPA-compliant software to protect confidentiality and privacy. Partners set their own schedule.
The program is available to people who live in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties or anyone caring for a loved one in any of these counties.
To learn more about the program, call (800) 852-7795, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit micaregivercoach.org.
Caregivers: take care of yourself
Caring for a loved one can be stressful, as studies have shown time and time again.
One of them, AARP’s 2020 Caregiving in the US report, found that from 2015 to 2020, the health of caregivers declined. It didn’t matter the age of the care recipient, the hours of care provided, whether the caregiver had a low or high income, whether they were married or not, or whether they chose to be a caregiver or not.
Staying healthy means taking care of yourself, another finding from several caregiving studies.
“We must remember that we must take responsibility for our own health and well-being. It is important for us to take care of ourselves so that we can then help others. If our health deteriorates, who will be there for the person we are caring for? explains Jeannine Roach, head of health promotion at the Territorial Agency on Aging 1-B.
Roach and Julie Lowenthal, the agency’s volunteer and caregiver services coordinator, offer these tips for caregivers:
• Be realistic about what you can and cannot do to help yourself and others
• Schedule time for yourself every day or at least a few times a week to do something you enjoy
• Decide what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, how much you are going to do and how often. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to do so.
• Temper your expectations of your loved ones
• Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Asking for help is strength
• Celebrate the milestones of your experience
• Know that self-care is paramount in your journey as a caregiver
Content reproduced with the kind permission of the Regional Agency on Aging 1-B.
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