Caregiving – Choice or Circumstance?

Caregiving Family or Hired?Caregiving is needed for several reasons, illness, disease, weakness, physical or cognitive disability, safety and so forth. Help can be needed at any time in life, though in our older age, it is more common. For millions of American families an elder parent or senior loved one will need some care at some point. A big trigger are fractures ( hip, pelvis) from falls, Alzheimer’s Disease and other illnesses which affect an person’s ability to care for their personal needs – bathing, dressing, toileting, household chores – shopping, cooking, driving, light housekeeping and so forth.  For the most part, a family member, usually the spouse or adult son/daughter becomes the primary caregiver.  In other situations, often when the person has Long Term Care insurance, they will hire an aide to be the caregiver which gives the family member some respite time for themselves.

Trained vs. Novice

For all the family members, particularly older spouses themselves, the role of caregiving just happens. There is no training or experience; they just do what needs to be done. The aging family caregiver themselves become “at risk” from the stress of caregiving, being overwhelmed, exhausted and very often neglecting their own health needs. There is a lot information either online or at Senior Centers, doctor offices and around town which offer guidance on how to properly help someone bathe, walk, transfer, deal with caring for a loved one with dementia and/or physical concerns.  An option is also to take a course as do the certified aides.  Of course, if you hire a skilled Home Health Aide or Certified Nurse Assistant from a licensed Home Care company, you will get someone who is trained, certified, experienced (screened) and have back up for times when you are unable to provide the care or take a break to visit other family or perhaps even undergo a medical procedure.

Hired Caregivers are expensive

This is true.  Hourly rates in Broward and Palm Beach County are in the $17.00 – $22.00 range. If you do not have LTC insurance, this is all an out of pocket expense. Medicare does not cover what is considered “custodial” care. However, having some hired help, even if intermittently can tremendously help the older wife or husband who is at risk as a caregiver to their spouse. Statistically speaking, 6 out of 10 spousal caregivers die before the person they are caring for. That is an unimaginable cost to the entire family. As seen in the above picture, one man has an aide who is younger, stronger and has time off between shifts. The other caregiver is the man’s wife; imagine her lifting the wheelchair in and out of the car every day, let alone all the other functions she performs as the primary caregiver – with few breaks in her 24 hour day.

A Little Help Goes a Long Way

It is recommended that families come together to support their parents. Find volunteer companions through religious or community organizations. Rotate adult children visits to their parents with a main purpose of spelling the caregiving parent. Contribute money to pay for at least a few hours of help a week. Remember, if the caregiver parent collapses, is hospitalized or worse, and then the adult children have an even bigger challenge to master.

Caregivers can be both family and hired, blended for a better outcome for the entire family.