Today I have an article I found while browsing through google news. The author is Kathy Caprino of Forbes.com. The article highlights 7 unique ways you can transform caregiving from a burden to an opportunity. Now I will admit that up to this point in my life I have never been a caregiver. However, I think that the tips Kathy offers would come in handy to current or future caregivers.
Observing my mother through her tireless caregiving of my father during his hospice care in the last months of his life, I saw first-hand the enormous toll it takes on loved ones to care for the elderly and those in declining health.
According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, during the past year, 65.7 million Americans (or 29 % of the adult U.S. adult population involving 31 percent of all U.S. households) served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative.
In a report issued by the National Alliance for Caregiving, almost three-quarters of family caregivers of people age 50 or older, work while they are caring for the family member or friend. Nearly 70% of them make some kind of workplace accommodation. Like coming in late, leaving early, reducing work hours, taking a leave of absence, choosing early retirement.
Female employees with eldercare responsibilities reported more stress at home than non-caregivers in every age group. Stress at home appears to affect younger female caregivers most frequently. Caregivers were more likely to report negative influences of personal life on their work.
Given the toll caregiving takes and the growing number of people affected in years to come, the care and well-being of the caregiver must be addressed in new and more effective ways.
To learn more about how caregiving can be transformed from burden to opportunity, I caught up with Anthony Cirillo, President of Fast Forward Consulting, an international healthcare consulting firm, and recognized expert in assisted living and hospital patient experience.
Anthony offers 7 key ways that the stresses and burdens of caregiving can be lessened. Here is a start:
1. Shift your mindset
Caregiving doesn’t have to be a negative, draining experience that turns your life upside down. Caregiving can also be a special opportunity to give back. And create a closer, deeper personal bond with the individual you care for. To experience it as an opportunity rather than a burden, a change in mindset is required. A new focus on what you can learn and how you can grow in a positive way through the experience. For a start, there are 8 traits of elders experiencing a high quality of life that we all can learn from, and embrace.
These traits are:
- Have purpose
- Stay active
- Laugh every day
- Learn something new
- Nurture friendships
- Foster a positive attitude
- Be grateful
- Demonstrate love
2. Connect with helpful online resources
There are numerous apps that can help you on your caregiver journey. Elder 411 offers over 500 pieces of expert advice organized around 11 categories. Involve Care helps you organize your caregiving activities and share them with family and friends who want to help. Therefore, use the app to request assistance and volunteer for activities to help everyone you care for live better. Add appointments, post requests, involve others. Tonic — Winner of “Best Mobile Health Solution for Behavior Change” at the Mobile Health 2011: What Really Works! conference held at Stanford University. It helps you keep track of everything in your health regimen. And makes it easier to take care of yourself and everyone else in your family.
You set the agenda—perhaps advised by your doctors, family and friends—while Tonic helps you remember, track and organize. Caregiver’s Touch is a subscription-based app that keeps critical information at your fingertips and allows you to safely and seamlessly share it with others. Use Caregiver’s Touch to enter, update and store a broad range of important data you need to care for your loved one, such as a parent’s insurance provider and medication regimen. Then download the iPhone application to keep this information with you wherever you are.
3. Get community support to ease the burden
The Caregiver Relief Fund provides vouchers for at-home respite care. Vouchers for professional at-home care services are donated or purchased on behalf of the Caregiver Relief Fund. Therefore, they award these vouchers to caregivers. In fact, that gives them time to address their personal needs and financial resources to invest in their own well being. They select individuals who have been in a caregiving role for a chronically ill individual, elder or disabled person for 12 months or longer. Applicants must not have an annual income that exceeds $80,000. Lotsa Helping Hands powers online caring communities that help restore health and balance to caregivers’ lives.
The service brings together caregivers and volunteers through online communities that organize daily life during times of medical crisis or caregiver exhaustion in neighborhoods and communities worldwide. Caregivers benefit from the gifts of much needed help, emotional support, and peace of mind, while volunteers find meaning in giving back to those in need.
4. Join a powerful coalition
ReAct is a coalition of corporations and organizations dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by employee caregivers and reducing the impact on the companies that employ them. The coalition and its members are dedicated to increasing awareness, understanding and action around issues faced by employee caregivers by: 1) developing data and research to improve understanding and quantifying impact, 2) identifying and sharing best practices, and 3) showcasing employer successes. ReACT seeks to support a business environment where the challenges faced by caregivers’ juggling the demands of both work and caregiving for an adult with a chronic age-related disease are understood and recognized by employers. Measures can then be taken to provide support and resources that employees need to better meet their personal responsibilities for caregiving and their professional demands.
5. Access all available benefits
A 2010 Gallup survey found that approximately two-thirds of caregivers spend more than 5 days per month handling errands and day-to-day tasks related to caregiving. High stress, changing schedules, and competing demands can be challenging to a working caregivers’ lifestyle and well being. Not surprisingly, this same survey found that the majority of caregivers say that caregiving has at least some impact on their performance at work.
The 2012 report Best Practices In Workplace Eldercare issued by ReAct in conjunction with other partners reveals the following best practice trends among employers:
- Reliance on technology—intranet and web services—to provide an array of informational and support services to employees and to market existing services and benefits.
- A move away from the “full-service” work-family vendor who provides a comprehensive array of workplace eldercare services to eldercare programs provided by more than one vendor.
- Paid time off is an important part of the menu of programs for most of the study’s employers. Most of the employers had flexible approaches to time off.
- Resource and referral services continue to be at the center of eldercare programming for employees.
- Discounted back-up home care for emergency needs was a popular option for many employers.
- Some of the employers offered Geriatric care management services.
- One employer to the employees, their parents and parent-in-laws offered help with insurance paperwork and information about Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance policies as a benefit at no charge.
Perceived benefits to the employers included reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, better retention rates, improved recruitment, reduced stress in the workplace and enhanced employee loyalty. One-third of the employers studied report that they had initiated their eldercare program in the past 5 years with most starting the program less than 3 years ago, pointing to a positive trend of more companies recognizing the vital importance of this issue.
6. When the journey is done, recover and rejuvenate
Grieve your loss. Restore yourself, and do what is necessary to recover and heal. Develop helpful rituals that offer you solace and peace. That includes (if it’s helpful) adhering to some of the daily traditions you started with your loved one. The site www.aftergiving.com offers resources that help caregivers adjust to life after the caregiving ends. And transition into the next stage of your life.
7. When you’re ready, give back
Share your experiences with soon-to-be caregivers, new caregivers, and experienced caregivers. In fact, Caring.com offers some great tips in giving back. Therefore, gift your time or expertise. Likewise, arrange for a one-time housecleaning for a caregiver maybe around the holidays. Prepare a meal for a caregiver and their loved one. Think about gifts the person might not otherwise buy for himself or herself.