Baby boomers. That word is thrown around pretty regularly anymore. What do you think of when you think of the baby boomer generation? Are you thinking of your grandparents? Or is it a little closer to home- your parents? Another two words might be playing in your mind as well- family caregiver.
Regardless who it is in your life that you are thinking of, there is usually one question that lingers in the back of your mind at all times. What will I do if (fill in the blank) happens to them? Are you willing to take care of your loved one? Do you really have the time? Do you know what taking care of them might all entail? Chances are, you probably don’t know, and that’s ok!
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The Family Structure Then and Now
Let’s go back a few generations. What happened when grandma started to become forgetful? Well, she would move in with her closest offspring most likely. An extra room was made for her and she was able to live comfortably along her extended family until she passed. I remember my great grandmother moving in with my great uncle. No one thought twice of it. It was the natural thing to do.
Ok, now fast forward to present day. What happens if grandma takes a fall? From years in the home health care industry I can tell you a common scenario that follows.
Grandma’s physician now says she is too unsteady to care for herself. Grandpa quite clearly isn’t physically able to take care of grandma. Their kids are scattered around the country, and while they are in town now to help take care of mom and dad, at some point they have to go back to their lives.
Assisted Living or Nursing Home?
So, what’s the next step? The physician will probably suggest an assisted living or nursing home situation. This is the most common scenario I saw in the field. Do not get me wrong, there is a time and place for these facilities!
Most family members will opt for the physician’s choice and with much arguing and persuasion, move mom and dad into a facility. No one can pick up and move back home. No one has a spare room for their parents. No one has time to take care of them with both husband and wife working full time and raising a family. Let’s say that by chance, one of their kids can move home or has space for their parents to move in with them. What happens next can be a juggling act.
The Juggling Act
If you or someone you know can care for their loved ones in home, that is great! It really is a lot to take on and whoever it is you are taking care of will be exceptionally grateful for it. However, with all of this selflessness does come a price.
Taking care of someone else is a lot of work. I could finish with that and it would be agreed upon. However, just how much work is usually found out after you have agreed to take care of that person. Even if you are only helping during the day or just the evening, it can be a lot to digest.
Caregiver burnout is a real thing and happens to many people. Just taking care of someone else is hard enough, but add in a job, your own family, any other responsibilities you may have, and you are doing quite the juggling act. I have seen what caregiver burnout looks like and it is not pretty. It can lead to sleep deprivation, anxiety, and even depression. You have to be able to take care of yourself first and foremost to be able to care for another.
Lack of Education on Resources
Through my time working in the medical field, there is one thing I noticed. There is a lack of education and resources on home health care. Many think that they can care for their loved ones on their own. However, a lot of people going into this situation have no idea how much time, patience, and energy it truly takes to help take care of someone they love.
As I said earlier, physicians will usually suggest an assisted living or nursing home. So, there isn’t much for choices other than which facility. However, there are a lot more options for family caregivers such as home health, hospice, and support groups.
I have seen relationships deteriorate because of the lack of knowledge the family caregiver had. If you get into any kind of memory or mood disorders this escalates quickly. Being able to have help is key to being a family caregiver. If you don’t have it, you are going to get in high water and fast. Once the family caregiver reaches this point, is usually when their loved one ends up in a facility.
Why is Home Health the Answer?
Home health is what a family caregiver needs to stay in control of the situation. It is the break they need to regain their composure. It is the support they need to continue down the noble path they have chosen.
Home health can be there if you need them two hours per day to go run errands and have a little time to yourself. Or, if you have to be gone for a friend’s wedding for a weekend, having 24-hour care to help is a huge relief.
Maybe your loved one needs help a few times per week with bathing because it is too hard to do on your own. Home health is there! When working in tangent with hospice, they can handle most medical situations.
The Family Caregiver Today
Being a family caregiver is no easy path to walk. However, with the help of home health, hospice, and support groups, it can be done again! Avoiding caregiver burnout and maintaining your own mental health is key to staying a safe family caregiver.
Take back control of your situation. Help take back independence to our loved ones. Give them the environment they deserve. Lastly, think about where you want to be at their age and what decisions you want others to make for you. Wouldn’t you rather stay home with your family? I know I would.