According to AARP, approximately 40 million Americans perform the role of caregiver for someone in their family. Although the typical caregiver is a 49 year old woman, the truth is that more and more men are starting to fill this function in their families. In addition, about one-fourth of caregivers are young adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Many Baby Boomers have found themselves in the "sandwich generation." They are still raising their own children while caring for an aging parent.
The Demands on Caregivers are Becoming More Intense
While the vast majority of ill, disabled or mentally incompetent people have always been cared for by family members, the demands now seem to be greater than ever, putting more stress on families who are caring for someone who cannot fully take care of themselves.
First, insurance companies encourage hospitals to discharge patients sooner, in an effort to save money. This means that caregivers may have to do more than just feed, dress and bathe their loved ones. They may also be required to perform traditional nursing duties such as giving injections or inserting catheters. Unfortunately, they may be expected to do these things with little or no training.
In addition, although people are living longer than ever before, they may not be able to take care of their own needs during the last few years of their lives. Caregivers may be required to take care of a loved one for as much as five or ten years ... which can add a great deal of stress to the job, especially if the caregiver also has children or other family members who need their attention.
Where to Find Help for Caregivers
With all the stress involved, nearly every caregiver is going to need some help at one time or another. In order to assist them, below is a list of resources to take some of the pressure off. The organizations below can help you get help in your community.
Family Care Navigator:
Caring.com (for information on Alzheimer's)
Where to Find Respite Services (when you are traveling or just need a break)
OR the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (sponsors day programs for Vets)
OR local assisted living facilities often provide temporary respite care
contact your local Area Agency on Aging
Personal Care Assistance
Contact a local home health agency in your community. They can provide help with meals, dressing, bathing and similar services.
Meals on Wheels America (provides meals to people living alone who cannot fix their own meals)
Assistance with Transitions to Rehab or Nursing Homes
Caregiver Support for Veterans
VA Caregiver Support Line
More Caregiver Resources Can Be Found at AARP's website:
aarp.org/cuidar (in Spanish)
Below are several books which are also excellent resources, followed by practical tools to make caregiving a little easier. (If you cannot see the book ads, click on the title of this article to be taken to the original article.)
Technology That Can Help CaregiversIn addition to community resources for caregivers, you may also get some peace of mind by putting technology to use. Below are some devices that may help:
Invisible GPS - Shoe inserts with a hidden GPS inside. These are designed for dementia patients who tend to wander off. Check: GPS SmartSoles
AARP Rx - A free app that will help you organize prescription lists and contact info, so you can share it with family members.
Wireless Blood Pressure Monitoring - Blip BP by BlipCare is a device that you connect to your Wi-Fi. You can then view the readings online or on an app.
Fall Prevention Lighting - Are you worried that a loved one might fall when they get out of bed at night? Luna Lights has a pressure pad that automatically will illuminate small portable lights in order to create a path to the bathroom at night.
Medical Alert Devices - You have probably seen the ads in which a woman, lying on the floor, pushes a button on a pendant and say, "Help me! I can't get up." There are a variety of these devices, including the Great Call Splash, the Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert and others. If you are worried about a family member who does not live with you, these devices are a wonderful way to make sure you will be contacted if your loved one falls or has a medical emergency.
Floor Mat Alarm - a mat that can be put by the door or bed. It will alert you if a dementia patient is leaving their bed, their room, or their house. Check: the FallGuard Safety Auto Reset Monitor with Floor Mat from the Smart Caregiver Corp.
Home Motion Sensors - These sensors, such as the one made by SafeinHome, will let you know if a loved one who lives alone is unusually inactive. Check: SafeinHome
If you are interested in more helpful information about retirement, medical issues as we age, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
AARP Bulletin, November, 2015, "Special Report: Caregiving in America"
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