Understanding Home Care and Its Demanding Aspects
The latest World Health Organization (WHO) reports show that the world’s population is aging rapidly. For example, the population of 50 million US seniors aged 65 and over is expected to double by 2050.
Aging doesn’t have to be a reason for hiring home care. However, almost half of Americans aged 85 or older have dementia or other medical conditions that require round-the-clock supervision and support with medical and personal care.
However, many seniors who depend on others for medical care and help with ADLs decide to age at home.
Home care allows an aging person to stay within the familiar environment of their homes and keep independence for as long as possible. So, for those who want to age in place, home care may be the best option.
Here are some basics on caring for the seniors at home to help caregivers and care recipients understand home care and its demanding aspects.
What are the Demanding Aspects of Home-Based Care?
Aging persons who require assistance with day-to-day activities can hire a formal caregiver or have a family member, friend, or neighbor become their caregiver.
Formal caregivers are typically Registered Nurses (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA). They are paid for the assistance and care they provide to patients in their homes (instead of traditional healthcare settings such as hospitals or nursing homes).
However, approximately 15 million adults in the US are informal caregivers for a family member with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. In addition, about 48 million caregivers provide care for loved ones, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
Many people also decide to become paid caregivers to their family members.
One of the most demanding aspects of home-based care involves emotional and physical demands on caregivers.
Research shows that caregivers are mainly spouses and female family members. Many caregivers report various negative effects of caregiving on their mental and physical health. In addition, caregiver stress may lead to burnout – a state of complete mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.
Also, caregiving can take a toll on a caregiver’s rest and sleep, social life, leisure time, and well-being in general.
Dealing with dementia, mental health issues, or behavioral challenges in aging adults can be overwhelming physically and emotionally.
To relieve caregiver stress, learn about the loved one’s condition so that you can respond to their needs more effectively.
Also, set boundaries and learn to practice self-care. Stay physically active and consider mindfulness meditation, as these self-care strategies can help you relax and manage caregiver stress.
Stay socially active as friends and family can provide significant support while managing caregiver stress.
If you feel continuously exhausted, irritable, and unable to rest, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout. Address your concerns with your doctor to prevent long-term harm caregiver stress can cause to your physical and emotional well-being.
Does Caregiving Cause Psychological Stress?
Yes, it does. Caring for a loved one can be a rewarding and heartwarming experience. However, being a caregiver to someone with dementia or other debilitating condition can at the same time be a source of stress and frustration.
The most common signs of psychological stress in caregivers involve mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and substance abuse.
Caregiving duties involve various responsibilities, which can become too demanding on a caregiver. For example, being a caregiver to a person with dementia can be both emotionally and physically challenging. In addition, progressive cognitive deterioration in dementia patients causes personality changes and behavior problems, making caregiving difficult at times.
Many caregivers report various symptoms of psychological stress such as:
- Feeling drained most of the time
- Intense feelings of worry and sadness
- Becoming easily irritated
- Sleep problems
- Appetite changes and weight problems
- Losing interest in activities a person once enjoyed
- Feeling guilty
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Experiencing frequent aches and pains
- Relationship problems
In many cases, psychological stress stems from a lack of boundaries – many caregivers provide care and support to their loved ones around the clock, neglecting their own needs.
This may lead to feelings of exhaustion, isolation, or depression, sometimes causing caregiver burnout.
What is Caregiving in Psychology?
Caregiving is an act of providing support and assistance to another person whose illness, injury, or disability impairs their ability to function independently.
Caregiving may involve various duties such as:
- Assisting with personal care
- Helping with meal preparation and feeding
- Assisting with mobility and transportation
- Assisting with medication management
- Helping with medical procedures and therapy
- Providing companionship and emotional support
What are the Effects of Caregiving?
Caregiving can have various positive outcomes. Some of them involve improved family connections, increased sense of self-worth and purpose in life, raised resilience, and appreciation from a family member who receives care.
According to 2014 research by the National Opinion Research Center, 83 percent of caregivers viewed caregiving as a positive experience.
Children who are caregivers to their elderly parents often report a sense of giving back to those who cared for them in childhood. Also, knowing that the loved one is getting outstanding care provides peace of mind.
However, caregiving has some negative aspects that should not be neglected. Caregiving can have a significant impact on a caregiver’s emotional and mental health.
Studies show that providing care to a family member often negatively affects the caregiver’s psychological health, causing high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
According to some estimations, between 40 to 70 percent of caregivers experience symptoms of clinical depression. At the same time, about one-quarter to one-half of them struggle with major depression.
Caregivers with depression are more likely to experience coexisting mental health problems such as anxiety, substance abuse, and chronic disease.
Caregivers also suffer from high levels of frustration and stress. In addition, ongoing caregiver stress sometimes leads to burnout. This condition may impair the caregiver’s health, mood, and overall well-being.
The most common signs of caregiver burnout may include:
- Sleep problems
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Weakened immune system
- Alcohol or substance abuse
How Do I Take Care of Myself as a Caregiver?
To prevent caregiver burnout and keep up good mental and physical health, you need to practice strategies to manage caregiver stress.
Below are some tips on how to care for yourself as a caregiver.
- Set Boundaries: Many caregivers tend to feel guilty if they put their needs first. However, there is only so much you can do as a caregiver. Setting boundaries means avoiding feeling accountable for the feelings and needs of a loved one you care for.
- Stay Physically Active: Regular physical exercise can help relieve tension, strengthen your stress resilience, and alleviate anxiety and depression. Also, studies show that physical activity can significantly boost your sense of self-worth and confidence and improve your mood.
- Practice Mindfulness: Research shows that mindfulness meditation can be a powerful way to improve your focus and concentration, boost mood, increase optimism, and enhance your self-esteem. Regular mindfulness practice can rewire your brain, reducing the activity in the amygdala responsible for anxiety reactions and helping you stay calm in stressful situations.
- Seek Support: Caregiver support groups can be a great source of information, support, and compassion. Such groups can be a safe environment to vent out, share experiences, learn about precious caregiving tips, offer and receive support, and much more.
Why is Being a Caregiver So Hard?
Caregivers typically care for loved ones with chronic physical illnesses, disabilities, mental illness, or injuries.
The physical and emotional demands of caregiving make this call very challenging. Caring for another individual asks so much of you. Caregiving requires time, commitment, and flexibility. In addition, witnessing a decline and changes in your loved one’s health can be devastating.
Seniors with dementia may experience various personality and behavior changes, such as mood swings, depression, anger issues, aggression, confusion, and memory loss. In addition, as the condition progresses, they begin struggling with communication and language skills, visual perception, judgment, problem-solving skills, and more.
Being a witness to such changes in a person you have known as strong and reliable your whole life can be heartbreaking.
In addition, everyday stress linked to caregiving may lead to caregiver burnout, causing a state of complete emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.
If you are too focused on a person’s needs, you may start neglecting your own needs and well-being. If you often experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, seek mental health support.
What are the Common Complaints of Patients at Home?
Many seniors receive care from paid caregivers, resulting in various complaints when receiving care at home.
Some of the most common complaints of patients at home involve:
- Unreliable caregivers
- Poor communication with a caregiver
- Confusion in communication due to having more than a one caregiver
- Inconsistent quality of care
- Caregivers with a lack of caregiving training
- Caregivers who are not punctual or flexible
- Unaccommodating caregivers
- Language barriers
Home care involves many aspects, from medication management and personal care to transportation and household chores.
Dementia and other chronic health conditions can make caring for the elderly at home very challenging. If you decide to be a caregiver for an aging family member, it is important to understand that caregiving can be demanding and stressful at times.