We Must Care for the Caregivers
By WayWiser for Next Avenue
A recent study of caregivers by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) brought a startling fact to light - over 50% of those caring for older adults have significantly worse mental health than those who are not.
Of the people studied, half of them suffered from symptoms of anxiety or depression, strikingly including various degrees of suicidal thought. Perhaps even more alarming, that percentage jumps all the way to 85% for those caring for both an older adult and a child under 18.
But is this really that surprising?
Caregiving can be a full-time job for the nearly 50 million Americans it impacts, yet we neglect to give those caregivers their needed support. They are often drastically underappreciated by their community and ineligible for some important government subsidy programs. In turn, their decline in mental health is now revealing devastating effects. In fact, it has been shown that depression not only affects the caregiver, but has a directly negative effect on the quality of care that is received by the older adults under care.
WayWiser is hard at work developing a platform that will help centralize caregiving communication and coordination, allowing those in a tough spot to better share the load with family and friends. But this alone won't remedy the agonizing statistics about depression and anxiety among caregivers.
"Over the past eighteen months, caregivers are more often wanting and needing to care for their loved ones at home due to COVID-19," says Amy Chidester, director of strategic aging initiatives at WayWiser. "Many long-term care communities have limited access for visitation and tours making admissions and orientation of new or prospective residents incredibly hard. Further, simply visiting loved ones is harder than ever in many long-term care communities."
In fact, 19% of the American population has now found themselves thrust into the position of caregiver, most of them without notice or training. Given the climate of the past 12 months, it would be expected to see that percentage increase once recent statistics come to light.
WayWiser's Caregiving Guide is a proper start for those looking for direction – especially those who are unsure about how to care for someone. The guide walks users through a streamlined list of questions that health care professionals use regularly to assess the needs of an older adult. It provides personalized guidance along with a report that can be handed directly to a professional, cutting down the time and appointments needed to progress towards a proper solution.
And while finding that guidance is an ideal starting point, it isn't the end.
Imagine planning a journey to walk across the country. It starts with a map, a travel guide and a sturdy pair of shoes. But no matter what, the journey is going to be long and arduous. Now imagine that journey, walking anywhere from four to 10 hours each day, down a road you've never been on and needing to work a full-time job at the same time. Or imagine needing to get your kids to school before you start the walk and pick them up, feed them dinner and read them a bedtime story at some point in the middle.
It is no wonder so many caregivers are feeling overwhelmed or even suicidal. It is no wonder why so many individuals are forced to resign from their jobs to ensure their loved one is able to get dressed, eat, move about their home, get to appointments, comfortably sleep or stay vigilant of possible financial exploitations by eager fraudsters.
Compound the difficulty of caring for an older adult with pandemic-related difficulties like schools being closed, job roles being shifted, adult day care centers being shut down and social interaction interrupted and we have a real tragedy unfolding around us.
Given this amalgamation of hardships, it's unsurprising that depression and anxiety are pervasive within the caregiving community and it is important to take notice and help.
While reform in government programs to alleviate some of the costs incurred for adult care would be a welcomed remedy, particularly for those who have had to leave their jobs to care for a loved one, the onus should simultaneously fall on friends and family if possible.
Sharing a tool like WayWiser's Caregiving Guide is a simple way to lend a helping hand to those looking for answers. It provides a plan, outlines next steps and eases the transition into caregiving, but those next steps are just as important as this first one.
If you're a caregiver yourself, reach out to those in your circle for help. For those who aren't currently in that position, lend your time, knowledge or experience to friends and family who may be suffering from the weight of it all.
With so many individuals struggling to care for their parents and loved ones, we must do our best to lighten their burden and remember that caregivers need care as well.
Launching in late 2021, WayWiser is a multi-platform application that connects people within a Trusted Circle™ and provides the tools and guidance needed to protect and coordinate the financial independence and dignity of loved ones as they age.