When we envision retirement, most of us pull up pictures of the grand and joy-filled activities we will delve into with the rest of our lives. May it be so for many years!
I recently heard Leslie Koc speak about caregiving. She is both a coach and a caregiver for her spouse. She really touched me as a nurse and someone who has worked with clients who are home caregivers for years. It got me thinking the reality of this piece of retirement.
This blog is focused on facts about caregivers, the toll on them, and how we might better prepare for becoming a caregiver, and prepare to make that a healthier experience for those around us who step up to be our caregiver.
First, some facts about caregivers to spur some thought in you and hopefully some conversation with others:
Who Becomes a Caregiver?
How long and how much?
The average caregiver will be in that role for four years. Those caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's will provide care for one to four years longer on average than for other conditions.
Caregivers who live with the care recipient will spend an average of 40 hours per week providing care and an additional 13 hours per month researching services or information on a disease, managing financial matters, or coordinating physician visits, shopping, outings, etc.
At What Cost to the Caregiver?
Caregivers and the people around them are focused in on the well-being of the person receiving the care. There are significant tolls on the caregiver(s) as well and that is the opportunity for us to do better planning and support for each other.
Here are several examples of what caregivers encounter:
Just as important are the feelings of ambivalence a caregiver experiences. The frustration that can often arise conflicts with the deep, caring feelings that led the caregiver to take on the role in the first place. Even though they know the recipient can't help their circumstance, it doesn't make the caregiver less frustrated in the midst of the situation. The caregiver often ends up feeling guilty if they allow themselves to express their emotions about the situation so they stay silent. Even their ambivalence becomes a way they are further isolated. How might all of us provide a non-judgmental ear to provide an outlet?
Ideas for Planning Ahead
An important first step in creating a better caregiving experience is having meaningful conversations and doing high-level planning rather than waiting until we find ourselves in the midst of responding to the situation. I believe those discussions should be part of our retirement planning process. Most of us hope and assume it won't be us and we never have that conversation--with our partner, our family, or our friends.
Here are several questions you may want to reflect on and discuss with those you care about as you move into the retirement phase of life:
Ideas If You Are Already a Caregiver
The topic of caregiving is complex and deserves much more space than is given here. It is important to realize that it isn't something that happens 'to those people over there'. It is more likely than not you will either be a caregiver or require one. It's important we encourage a community dialog about healthy ways to navigate caregiving and not put undue strain on the caregiver who loves us. As a culture, we also need to better keep caregivers in view and find ways to provide support.
If I can be of help to you as you plan for or navigate being a caregiver, please feel free to contact me.
AARP and United Health Hospital Fund. (2012). Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care.
Alzheimer’s Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.
Coughlin, J. (2010). Estimating the Impact of Caregiving and Employment on Well-Being: Outcomes & Insights in Health Management.
Gallup-Healthways. (2011). Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Institute on Aging. (2016). Read How IOA Views Aging in America
McCann, J. J., Hebert, L. E., Beckett, L. A., Morris, M. C., Scherr, P. A., & Evans, D. A. (2000). Comparison of Informal Caregiving by Black and White Older Adults in a Community Population.
National Alliance for Caregiving & AARP. (2005). Caregiving in the U.S.
Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.