Caring for your aging parents can be both a rewarding and stressful experience. To make it as positive experience as possible, it helps to prepare for the potential challenges ahead. And, if you haven’t given much thought to this role reversal – the child caring for the parent – it’s a good time to start.
In 2015, around 44 million American adults provided unpaid care to an adult, according to the research report, “Caregiving in the U.S.,” by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. More than 34 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult who was age 50 or older. Nearly half of caregivers provided care for a parent or parent-in-law.
As the population of older adults increases and people live longer with chronic medical conditions, more families will face the prospect of providing care to an elderly loved one Many adults will likely find themselves stretched between raising children and caring for aging parents. The various demands of supporting multiple generations could impact your own future, namely your retirement.
Based on the findings in the report, we can see what common challenges caregivers have, which can help prepare you better for potential care needs of your own parents. It’s important to note that the challenges are amplified for those who spend a high number of hours providing care or who help care for someone with a chronic health condition, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Caregiving is often time-intensive. You may have to spend an entire day per week, on average, caring for your loved one. The average number of hours per week caregivers spend providing care is 24.4. In addition to helping with daily living activities, caregivers spend time interacting with various providers, agencies and professionals on the behalf of their care recipient.
Physical strain and emotional stress
Over time, caregiving can negatively impact your health. More than a fifth (22%) of caregivers felt their health declined because of caregiving. Further, the longer someone spent providing care, the more likely he or she reported fair or poor health.
Per the report, “one in five caregivers reports a high level of physical strain resulting from caregiving, while two in five consider their caregiving situation to be emotionally stressful.”
Caregivers can also experience a strain on their finances. Nearly one in five caregivers say they’ve experienced financial strain. The incidence of financial strain rises for those who spend a greater number of hours than average providing care and those who provide care for longer periods of time.
The financial strains of caregiving may be primarily attributed to its effect on caregivers’ careers. Due to caregiving, 60% of caregivers experienced changes in the workplace including reducing working hours, taking time off and receiving a warning about performance or attendance.
Access to affordable services
You may also face the challenge of finding affordable services for your loved one. A quarter of caregivers find it very difficult to attain affordable services near their loved one that would help with their care.
Lack of a plan
While care recipients and caregivers are surely occupied with immediate concerns, an alarming number don’t have a plan in place for the future. Just under half of caregivers (46%) say their loved one has a plan for his or her future care. Meanwhile, only 40% of caregivers report they have a plan for their own future care.
Lack of information
As untrained caregivers, a major challenge is just gathering the right information. Most caregivers don’t have important discussions with a health care provider about caring for their loved one or themselves.
Only about a third (32%) of caregivers say they have been asked by a health care provider what was needed to care for their recipient. Much fewer (16%) say they’ve had conversations with health care providers pertaining to their own care needs as a caregiver.
Most telling, more than 80% of caregivers say they could use more information or help on caregiving topics.
Information is a powerful tool for creating a less stressful experience for your aging parents as well as for yourself. If you want to learn more about what you can do to overcome the challenges of caring for your parents, a loved one or even yourself, don’t miss our webinar Transitioning to Senior Living. You can watch the video replay below.