The Winding Road Ahead: Families Caring For Aging Loved Ones
There once was a sense of comfort knowing that when one reaches the age of 65, Medicare will provide for most if not all long-term care needs. The implicit reality is that Medicare does not cover long term care services. The receipt of services that a senior may need as they age will depend on the type of financial resources they have.
When we look at the state of our country, we are aging in droves. $10,000 Americans reach the age of retirement every day. To date, there are upwards of 43 million Americans over the age of 65; this number is expected to double within the coming decades. As Americans age, so does their risk for developing chronic illnesses. Studies support that 92% of older adults have at least 1 chronic illness, while 77% have at least 2 chronic illnesses. Chronic illnesses account for 75% of the healthcare spending; however, only 1% of healthcare dollars are spent on public health initiative to improve health outcomes.1
Studies support that family members bear the brunt of the responsibility caring for their loved ones with chronic illnesses. This caregiving responsibility can take a health toll on the family caregiver if they do not practice self-care. Listed below are a few tips that may help family caregivers maintain optimal health while providing optimal care. Family caregivers should:
1) Get educated about their loved one’s level of care. Better understanding their loved one’s healthcare needs will promote better health outcomes for the caregiver and the person in which they are caring.
2) Join support groups. Engaging with others that are experiencing similar situations can be therapeutic.
3) Manage stressors. Medication is only one part of managing stress. Social stressors must be managed, as well, by taking a break from constant care with the help of respite services.
4) Plan for their own care. Ensuring that all medical conditions are properly addressed can promote longevity of life for the caregiver and the person in which they are caring.
5) Access available resources. The ability to connect to resources through the state of is fragmented. However, a new portal launched by the South Carolina Department ong, www.getcaresc.com, is a step in the right direction to bridge the resource gap for seniors and their families.
6) Accept help. Family caregivers must ask for help before the burden gets too heavy. Consider hiring a Geriatric Care Manager to help reduce the anxiety of navigating the long-term care system.
The aforementioned tips could help reduce the stress in providing ongoing care for an aging adult with chronic illnesses.
1 Caregiving in the U.S. 2009,” (n.p.: National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, November 2009), 4. Internet, August 17, 2010.