Why Family Caregivers Deserve Better

November 11, 2021

Are you a family caregiver finding it difficult to juggle work, family, caregiving, and your health? You are not alone. The truth is around 16% of Americans are family caregivers. Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 study revealed 53 million Americans describe themselves as family caregivers. That is an increase of 12% in the last five years. Of those over 1 in 5 Americans, 23% (1.22 million) said caregiving made their health worse and 45% (2.39 million) have experienced at least one financial burden. To support family caregivers and extend awareness of the growing family caregiver community, November is named the National Family Caregiver Month.

We, at ChatOwl, join in the celebration by providing insights into the National Caregivers holiday history and sharing useful statistics and resources for improving the quality of life for those like you. We’ll explore concerning trends on the mental, physical, and financial strain for caregivers.  By sharing the following information and statistics in this article, we hope you find some useful takeaways.

 

The History of National Caregivers Month

27 years ago, Caregiver Action Network (CAN), a non-profit organization offering free resources, peer support, started advocating for celebrating family caregivers. 3 years later, CAN caught the attention of President Clinton. He signed the first National Family Caregivers Month proclamation and sequentially, every President after. Every November, caregivers are honored and recognized for their selflessness. The National Caregivers Month both sets a time aside for honoring and recognizing caregivers and supplying you with access to mental, personal, and financial resources.

 

Who are Family Caregivers?

Family caregivers are non-medical relatives. Caregivers are generally relatives helping their loved ones with a disability, illness, or life-limiting condition. It can range from simply helping with household duties and transportation to administering medications and responding to medical emergencies. All caregivers are important to the life of a disabled, sick, or aging loved one and can make or break their quality of life.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, collected data from adults in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rice. Their results were surprising. 50% of caregivers have given at least 2 years of care, over 50% help with personal care, and 1 in 6 non-caregivers anticipate becoming a caregiver within 2 years. 

As for the Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 study, it exposed a changing demographic: 23% are Millennials, 45% are caring for someone with more than 1 condition. and spend 23.7 hours a week on average offering care.

 

The Personal and Physical Toll for Family Caregivers

In March of 2020, the U.S. began closing schools and unessential businesses, asking citizens to stay at home, and not to meet in groups. COVID-19 not only threatened healthy and sick people’s physical and mental health but also caregivers responsible for family members. One study reported on the mental health of adult, unpaid caregivers in the U.S. from June 24 to June 30, 2020. What it found was that almost 48% of the 5,470 caregiving respondents said they experienced symptoms of anxiety disorder due to the pandemic. Surprisingly, those who were paid caregivers recorded almost three times fewer anxiety disorder symptoms.

In 2020, many suffering from anxiety and depression were told to stay home. Mental health mobile apps became a popular solution to out of the office care. If you’re finding it a challenge to control your life, then a self-care app, like ChatOwl, can give a gateway to care plus it’s convenient for your unique schedule. No travel time is necessary, and the service is available anytime,. Maybe you are not sure if you are experiencing anxiety or other mental health issues. If interested, take this mental health test provided by Mental Health America. It is an online screening to help determine whether your symptoms could be helped with treatment.

As caregivers take on a larger medical role, many symptoms develop including being extremely tired, feeling increased anxiety, and becoming ill. The responsibility can become too much. Even injuries are common. When helping your loved one to the bathroom, a shoulder injury could develop. It’s common for caregivers to feel overwhelmed, in a sense, sacrificing their life at home to care for their family member.

 

The Financial Toll for Family Caregivers

Many costs are attributed to being a family caregiver. Specifically, time spent, and out-of-pocket expenses cause an increase in costs. Dedicating an average of over 100 hours a month, caregivers do not receive financial compensation or receive employment benefits like time off or sick leave. When looking at the data collected by Mass Mutual, the average hourly cost of at-home health care ranged from around $16 to $28 per hour. The reason for the $12 difference is that pay is subject to the local cost of living. If the national average is $20 then you’re saving $2000 a month by caring for your family member. However, as a caregiver, you will spend an average of $7,242 per year on your loved one.

Creating a plan to manage the costs associated with caretaking is significant for yourself and your family. There are strategies to alleviate some of the financial load. For example, share your concerns with friends and family. Ask for support on your social media. Create a fundraiser. Relieve yourself from not only the mental pressure but also the financial.

 

Tips for coping with stress as a family caretaker

A family caregiver’s role in the U.S. health care system is increasingly important. Often their efforts are unacknowledged and overlooked. For National Family Caregivers Month, reward yourself by beginning now with beneficial mental and physical exercises. When you start to feel anxious, start with 5-minute daily breathing practice, build a weekly food plan, or write down common stressors. For instance, getting a mobile app offers daily notifications of helpful, daily therapy methods. ChatOwl is designed for family caregivers who are short on time and low on funds. It’s a free mental health therapy option. Additionally, if you are one of 61% of family caregivers that work, this can elevate current and future stressors.

To deal with the overwhelming stress associated with caring for a loved one, pay attention to your health and wellbeing. For that reason, if you find yourself feeling anxious, pay attention to the signs and ask for help. Your friends and family want the best for you just as you want the best for those under your care.

 

References

https://www.aarp.org/ppi/info-2020/caregiving-in-the-united-states.html

https://www.caregiveraction.org/

https://www.cdc.gov/aging/data/infographic/2018/aggregated-caregiving.html

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm

https://chatowl.com/about-us/

https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/

https://blog.massmutual.com/post/age-in-place-costs

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/10/29/high-cost-unpaid-caregivers/

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