More than 65 million people, or an estimated 29 percent of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.
The vast majority – approximately 66 percent -- of these caregivers are women with the typical family caregiver being a middle-age woman caring for her widowed mother who does not live with her. Typical family caregivers are also usually married and employed, and more than 37 percent have children or grandchildren living with them, according to a report from the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP.
Caregiver burnout is a very real phenomenon for family members who try to fill the void of caring for their aging relatives. Though they may start with a can-do attitude and a sense of doing right by their family members, the sole caregiver often experiences burnout, stress and a growing resentment for his or her family member.
This can take a toll on the caregiver’s health. In fact, a University of California, San Francisco study demonstrated that family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life.
Home care can provide respite from the compounding responsibilities of caring for an aging relative. In communities across the country, there are numerous resources that enable caregivers to find the support they need. Home care providers – not to be confused with home health care providers – can provide respite care to alleviate some of the responsibilities faced by family caregivers.
While respite care is typically defined as “providing a caregiver with a short break,” other home-care services can also serve to reduce the burden faced by family caregivers. Home care services include, but are not limited to, meal planning and preparation, medication reminders, personal care, fall prevention and safety, transportation, companionship, shopping and errands, and housekeeping. These services usually require payment based on an hourly rate.
Home care services differ from home health care services, which are medical in nature (administering medication, physical therapy, etc.) and are provided by licensed medical personnel.
Developing a Care Plan
Many experienced, reputable home care providers offer an initial free in-home assessment to determine a client’s specific needs. From the assessment, an individualized care plan should be developed, matching the best available caregiver to the client to ensure a trusting and lasting relationship.
It can be difficult for someone who has experienced a lifetime of independence to recognize that they need some extra help or that their family caregiver may need some support in caring for them. That’s why open communication is essential.
Finding the Right Provider
When researching for qualified home care providers in your area, check to ensure they are bonded and insured and that all caregivers meet the following requirements:
50-State Background Check
Pre-Employment Drug Screening
Previous Employment Verification
CPR and First Aid Certification
Thorough Reference Checks
Fingerprint Clearance Card (in some states)
Additionally, look for a home care provider that places emphasis on continuing education and supervisory visits. Ongoing education expands caregiver service skills while supervisory visits serve as a monitoring system to maintain quality standards and successfully adapt to changing client care needs.
With the support of a home care provider, many family caregivers can continue to provide care to their aging relatives while maintaining their own good health and reducing their stress levels.
Author's Note: Eric Kaye is Director of Jewish Family Home Care of Arizona, which is part of the nonprofit Jewish Family & Children’s Service in Phoenix, Arizona. For more information about Jewish Family Home Care (providing services to the Jewish community and people of all religions and value systems), visit www.jewishfamilyhomecareaz.org or call 602-452-4680.
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