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4 Strategies for Providing Relief to Family Caregivers

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4 Strategies for Providing Relief to Family Caregivers

To impact real change, a national strategy that administratively or through new federal legislation explicitly and systematically addresses family caregiver needs is needed. This strategy must be accompanied by robust evaluation and accountability.

Healthcare organizations that prioritize supporting family caregivers will improve patient outcomes, lower costs, and increase satisfaction. Here are four strategies to consider:

  1. Exercise

Family caregivers often find their own physical and mental health suffering because of the demands of their caregiving role. They may suffer from high stress levels that lead to headaches, increased blood pressure, and weight gain. Taking time to exercise can help combat those symptoms and give them the inner reserve needed to support caring for loved ones.

Regular exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and dementia. But putting on running shoes and heading to the gym can feel like a luxury for busy family caregivers with full schedules. And yet, the reality is that exercise is one of the most important things a person can do for their own health and well-being.

In-home caregivers can benefit from a variety of exercises, including walking, swimming, bicycling, and aerobics. Yoga and meditative exercises such as stretching or tai chi can also provide benefits by calming the mind, reducing stress, and promoting a good night’s sleep. Exercise can also be combined with socializing, as is the case in a growing number of “walking support groups” for individuals with limited mobility due to conditions such as COPD or Fibromyalgia.

Taking the time to lift some weights can also provide a great break from the daily grind of assisting aging loved ones with mobility, bathing and showering, meals, and other activities. This form of exercise releases positive endorphins and can be done in the privacy of a home gym, in a class at a local gym, or by joining an individualized weightlifting program with a physical therapist.

Research shows that dyadic interventions in which caregivers and care recipients participate in exercise together are more effective than dyadic interventions that only involve the caregiver or nonexercised control groups for both the caregiver and the care recipient. However, the small number of studies reviewed here limit generalizations and warrant further investigation. Future studies should include larger-scale randomized controlled trials and methodologies that intentionally plan for caregivers and investigate other populations of older adult caregivers across a broader range of diseases.

While a workout at the gym might seem like a selfish indulgence to some caregivers, it is important for them to remember that it can increase their ability to continue providing care and may even extend the amount of time they are able to do so. If a person is not feeling well, they cannot perform their best at work or at home, which makes it important for family caregivers to take care of themselves and exercise as part of their routine.

  1. Socialize

Caregiving is a demanding role that requires time and attention. It also affects the health and well-being of the caregiver and can lead to burnout and depression. Socialization can help family caregivers stay balanced and reduce stress. Family caregivers need to visit friends and loved ones regularly and spend time with other adults. Additionally, they need to find time for hobbies and recreational activities. Additionally, family caregivers should maintain their connection to their communities by participating in religious groups, clubs, and civic organizations.

Recognizing and supporting family caregivers as an integral part of the healthcare system is essential. Family caregivers are responsible for much of the long-term care services in the United States, including managing complex medical needs, providing emotional support, and coordinating community resources. They often work full-time while juggling caregiving responsibilities, leading to lost income and reduced savings, which can impact their financial futures and retirement plans. Furthermore, they experience significant strain from navigating a complex healthcare system and balancing work and caregiving responsibilities.

Studies show that interventions that target the caregiver have two effects: They reduce caregiver distress and directly improve family caregivers’ health outcomes, and they indirectly increase patients’ satisfaction with their care and well-being. To address the challenges faced by family caregivers, policies and programs should be designed to provide targeted support to specific populations. For example, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American family caregivers report unique challenges in their caregiving experiences, and LGBTQ family caregivers have specific coping challenges.

The Biden Administration is committed to addressing the challenges facing family caregivers and the people they serve. In 2019, the Administration introduced the American Families Act, which includes a paid family and medical leave program that would guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child or take care of a sick loved one. It also includes $400 billion in additional funding for HCBS to better support the needs of families and their caregivers.

  1. Take a Break

Being the primary family caregiver for a senior with medical or behavioral issues is a challenge. Caregivers often feel overwhelmed and undervalued, and it can be difficult to find time for themselves. It’s important for caregivers to take regular breaks, or they may experience burnout. Burnout symptoms include exhaustion, depression, and apathy. Taking a break allows family caregivers to recharge, and it can help them perform better when they return to their caregiving duties.

A break can be anything from a few hours to a few days, but it’s important for caregivers to make their plans in advance. This can give those around them peace of mind and prevent caregivers from feeling guilty or anxious about the time away. Caregivers also need to establish boundaries, such as not checking emails or answering phone calls about their loved ones while they are away.

Another reason why it’s important for family caregivers to take a break is that it can improve their relationships with other people. Many caregivers become so focused on their role that they neglect other obligations, such as marriage and family. This can lead to problems in the long run, so it’s essential for family caregivers to spend time with their spouses and children.

Taking a break from caregiving can also boost a person’s self-esteem. It can help them feel that they are capable of taking care of themselves and that their needs should be a priority. It can also make them feel more confident about their ability to provide the best care possible for their loved ones.

If a family caregiver is experiencing burnout, they should consider respite care. This service gives family caregivers a chance to take a much-needed break from their caregiving responsibilities while knowing that their elderly loved ones are in good hands with professional support. Contact a local home health agency to learn more about respite care, including costs and services available. Caregivers can then use this information to determine if this is the right solution for their situation. If not, they can explore other options for respite care, such as hiring a babysitter or attending a caregiving support group.

  1. Talk to Someone

Family caregivers must deal with many emotions. They may feel guilt, frustration, and anger. They may also be grieving – for the loss of the health they once enjoyed with their loved one and for the dreams that have had to be put aside in favor of caregiving.

These emotions can make it difficult for family caregivers to reach out for help. They may feel like no one understands what they are going through or that others don’t think they deserve a break. However, there are people out there who do understand. Talking to other caregivers who have been in a similar situation reduces stress, validates feelings, and provides much-needed connection and support. They can also offer advice and information about different support systems.

It is important for family caregivers to know their legal rights and options. They should seek out advice and information from professionals who can answer their questions about the law, benefits, and financial impact of caregiving. They should also discuss their options with their employer to learn about employee assistance programs, adjusting work priorities, and flexible work schedules.

In addition to seeking out professional help, family caregivers can also ask friends and neighbors for help. They can ask for help with grocery shopping, driving, errands, or for a few hours to get out of the house to socialize. They can also consider asking for a medical alert system to enable their loved ones to call for emergency help by simply activating the device.

Taking steps to provide relief to family caregivers can significantly reduce their stress levels, improve the quality of life for their loved ones, and make it easier for them to maintain their health and well-being. The best way to do this is by starting a grassroots effort within communities and healthcare organizations, with caregivers themselves, local businesses, faith-based groups, and hospitals leading the charge.

A medical alert system is an excellent tool for helping family caregivers to feel less burdened by their responsibilities. By using the system, they can feel more confident that their loved ones are safe and can easily call for help if they need it.

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