The National Family Caregivers Association has designated the month of November to recognize those who assist someone they care about who is chronically ill or disabled and is no longer able to care for themselves. The country’s healthcare system now depends greatly on family caregivers. These services have been conservatively valued at $375 billion year. Caregiving is increasingly become a social issue. “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” (Carter, NFCA, 2010).
While family members taking care of their loved ones is not a new practice, the nature of the care they provide has changed. For instance, people are living longer, which means that the care is being provided for longer periods of time. Also, the culture of employed women and those men and women who are waiting until their thirties or forties to have children has had an impact on the additional demands of family caregivers. Furthermore, the costs of healthcare and who should pay for it have changed.
Being a family caregiver consists of many things. It often requires providing emotional, financial, nursing, social, and homemaking services, often on a daily basis. For the caregiver, this may mean compromising job opportunities, finances or social activities. Often being a family caregiver requires learning how to work with physicians and healthcare systems, navigating public programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, and becoming skilled with wheelchairs or other adaptive equipment.
“More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.” (NAC & AARP, 2009). Suzanne Mintz, President/CEO of the NFCA, asks that family caregivers begin to identify themselves as such. In doing so, feelings and experiences can begin to be validated. The recognition of this large group of people with similar issues, characteristics, needs and concerns can begin to be acknowledged, and the issue of family caregiving can begin to be addressed.
A survey by the NFCA indicates that the most common bond among family caregivers is the emotional impact from the role and service they provide. Examples of this include:
- Intense sadness and pain
- Longing for the miracle of normalcy
- Frustration as a result of changing family dynamics
- Isolation which comes from living outside the norm
- Disappointment over the lack of understanding from non-caregivers
- Stress over the increased and enormous responsibilities
- Depression over all the losses sustained by caregiving
- Fortitude and power to go on and make a difference
- Resourcefulness in problem-solving abilities
- Strength in the knowledge we can survive
The impact of these stressors on a family caregiver’s health is concerning as self-care is often neglected. This has been shown to increase symptoms of depression, to contribute to aging prematurely, and to increase chances of the development of chronic illness. For many, healthy eating habits, exercise, and medical attention is neglected as the needs of those they care for take precedence.
The National Family Caregivers Association provides resources, a volunteer network, and ways to connect with other family caregivers. Those who can identify with this large group are encouraged to join together to inform and to alert others of this social issue. Check out the website at www.thefamilycaregiver.org
Mintz, S. (2007). Who are America’s Family Caregivers? Retrieved September 23, 2010, from www.thefamilycaregiver.org.Tags: Caregiving, emotional impact with caregivers
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Jody Johnson, LICSW, LIMHP, began working at Wholeness Healing Center as a therapist in 2007. Jody graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her Masters in Social Work. She received her bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
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