Life isn't easy for caregivers
Scott Lamar | 06.11.14
Americans are living longer. Women live to an average age of 82 and men to 77 years old.
Living longer doesn't necessarily mean living better. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), more than 70 million Americans over the age of 50 live with a chronic condition.
What these statistics mean is that more older people need care and millions are not able to care for themselves. Millions of disabled Americans require full time care too.
Who is providing the care for older and disabled adults?
There are assisted living and nursing facilities, but most would rather stay home or live with a caregiver. As a result, there are more than 44 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S.
Caregivers are experiencing challenges themselves. Most are under a lot of stress and experience physical or emotional problems like depression.
On Smart Talk, we address caregiving and caregivers. Joining us is Dr. Arlene Bobonich, who practices palliative medicine at Pinnacle Health and Dr. David Wenner, the medical director at Hospice of Central Pennsylvania.
Dr. Bobonich provided links to several websites and organizations for more information on caregiving:
- pinnaclehealth.org A variety of programs, free and open to the public which address everything from "LEAKY PLUMBING" to "HOW TO START THE CONVERSATION" when dealing with end of life care. For patients not computer savvy, they may call 231-8900 to register. We also have a Congestive Heart Failure Clinic which has been producing marvelous statistics when it comes to keeping patients out of trouble, and hence out of the hospital when terrible situations snowball into lethal ones.
- www.alz.org 1-800-272-3900 Alzheimer's association but lots of helpful caregiver guidance including financial.
- www.caps4caregivers.org 1-800-227-7294 Special programs dedicated to the children of Aging Parents
- www.edc.gsph.pitt.edu/reach/info.html Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer's Caregiver Health
In addition, there are multiple local Hospices:
- Hospice of Central Pennsylvania ( the largest, not for profit and only one with a "Hospice House")
- Homeland Hospice ( has a multilingual staff)
- Legacy Hospice
- Grane Hospice
- Compassionate Care ( they tend to specialize in end stage cardiac problems and do an excellent job in keeping people comfortable and at home instead of frightened and in the hospital)
It may help you to know that even a nursing home patient may have Hospice. Payment schedule however may change, it depends on the situation.
It may also be helpful to know that although federal mandates require a certification that a patient's life expectancy is 6 months or less, a patient may renew their eligibility innumerable times on Hospice without limit and at times even "graduates" out of Hospice mostly due to the tremendous support they received.
"10 signs of caregiver stress"
- DENIAL In spite of multiple medical opinions you feel you must keep doing more, involving more medicines, etc. This is usually a hallmark that the system is now so used to dependence that a codependence may be forming and it is EXHAUSTING.
- SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL The caregiver begins to think that activities once important to them should take a second fiddle. This reduces the cargivers ability to bounce back and IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
- ANGER Usually directed at self ( I should be doing more), the patient (why don't they get better) or the medical team.
- ANXIETY Whats going to happen next
- FATIGUE Beyond the usual
- DEPRESSION What is this all leading to, am I worthless?
- POOR SLEEP, BAD EATING HABITS
- POOR CONCENTRATION a kind of brain overload, foggy decisions,poor planning
- SUBSTANCE ABUSE From coffee to alcohol to smoking to drugs
GOOD PLANNING IN LATE MIDDLE AGE
When you become an "empty nester" don't buy the charming townhouse built on three levels. Get something with a master suite and bath on the first floor. An older house might not have doorways to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers.
When your large St Bernard dog passes away, consider a lap dog or cat.
Set up the kitchen with light weight dishes ( Corelle, etc. ) now is the time to pass down the ancient stonewre to the kids. Place everything you use daily on the first and easiest reachable shelf. This will pay off in the decade following after that hip fracture or onset of other neurologic problem. If the problems don't develop, you have lost nothing.
IN LATER AGE
- Do away with belts and fussy things. Buy magnetic closures for treasured pieces of jewelry.
- Change clothing to Velcro snapped, interchangeable sweat clothes. Many cute brands especially for women (Quacker Factory, etc)
- Buy skid proof table mats. Dishes often "run away" from someone playing with their food. Try a sippy cup.
- DONT FORCE FEED . If Mom or Dad won't eat, try putting around the house small dishes of cheerios, nuts, raisins (difficult to clean off the carpet), wheat Chex, apple slices (dip them in lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.) Just watch for choking as often swallowing and chewing ability is lost towards the end of life.
Dr. Arlene Bobonich, Pinnacle Health