May 12, 2017 by Katie Fielmann
According to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving, nearly 70 million Americans provide family caregiver support to a loved one. On average, these caregivers spend upwards of 20 hours each week providing support so their loved one can remain at home. Over 10 million of these caregivers provide more than 40 hours of care each week, with many providing round-the-clock care and supervision each and every day.
It should not be a surprise that a good number of family caregivers start strong but quickly tire as the support they likely thought they would receive from other family and friends falls through. In fact, the vast majority of family caregivers are one-deep positions, and these caregivers often provide long-term care for years on end. In these situations, family caregivers report failing physical and mental health, with chronic illness and depression occurring 200 percent more often in caregivers than non-caregivers. This is known as caregiver burnout.
Not all caregiving is the same, and not all conditions create the same amount of stress. Caregivers who simply need to provide help with housekeeping and laundry, for example, will have a very different experience than those who provide care for a loved one with mid to late-stage dementia. In fact, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, just the "stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person's immune system for up to three years after their caregiving ends thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves."
The most common complaint among family caregivers is simply not having enough time to take care of personal business, see their own doctor, clear their head, or even sleep. Even so, very few family caregivers give up their labor of love even after their own health fails. For some, it is feelings of guilt, for others, it is personal responsibility, and others still simply cannot bear to think about their loved one being moved to a nursing home.
Respite care offers a different, highly effective, alternative that allows family caregivers to combat caregiver burnout while still providing care to their loved one in the comfort and convenience of their own home. In its simplest form, respite care is short-term care provided to a senior by a professional caregiver while the primary, family caregiver takes a break. Respite care is different from other care models in that it does not replace a family caregiver or require that the senior be moved to another location.
Comfort Keepers respite care services are provided in the senior's home for as many hours as needed, from a mere hour up to full-time, 24-hour care. There are no requirements for respite care, either. Family caregivers can use the time for whatever they need: sleep, visiting with friends, seeing a movie, going to the gym, or even taking a short vacation.
Researchers have found that family caregivers who take advantage of regular respite breaks are able to avoid the challenges of caregiver burnout. Further, those who have already gone down the burnout path can reverse the symptoms. One study found that family caregivers who suffered from chronic illness and depression were able to significantly reverse their condition in as little as a year by taking regular respite breaks.
In short, caregiver burnout is an all-too-common result of long-term care. With regular respite care support, however, it does not have to be.
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