Family caregivers often don’t recognize when they are in over their heads, and often get to a breaking point. Heavy emotional, health and financial stress, indirectly-related relationship problems and loss of time are just a few of many issues that can surface when caring for a loved one. After a prolonged period of time, care-giving can become too difficult to endure any longer. In the short-term, the family caregiver may be inclined to believe that they can handle it. But in the long-term, it may become apparent that professional outside help, through caregivers for seniors, may be needed. A typical pattern with an overloaded caregiver may unfold as follows:
1 to 18 months – The family caregiver is confident, has everything under control and is coping well. Other friends and family are lending support.
20 to 36 months – The family caregiver is taking medication to sleep and control mood swings. Outside help dwindles away and, except for trips to the store or doctor, the caregiver has severed most social contacts. The caregiver feels alone and helpless. This is a very sad time.
38 to 50 months – Besides needing tranquilizers or antidepressants, the family caregiver’s physical health is beginning to deteriorate. Lack of focus and sheer fatigue cloud judgment and the caregiver is often unable to make rational decisions or ask for help.
It is often at this stage that family or friends intercede and find other solutions for care. This may include respite caregivers, hiring a home nursing agency, or home health aides, or placing the loved one in a nursing facility. Without intervention, the caregiver may become a candidate for long term care as well. It is also important to use outside professional help in a caregiver setting. A financial planner, care funding specialist or a reverse mortgage specialist may find the funds to pay for professional help to keep a loved one at home. A care manager can guide the family and the caregiver through the maze of long-term care issues. The care manager has been there many times the family is experiencing it for the first time.
An elder law attorney can help iron out legal problems. And an elder mediator can help solve disputes between family members. Having competent advice can often make the difference between allowing a loved one to remain in the home or being forced to seek out government welfare assistance. Due to pride or sheer determination some caregivers allow the situation to go beyond their control. They have gotten to a point where depression and fatigue have clouded their judgment. At some point the caregiver will have to admit that he or she can’t handle it alone and a better solution must be found.
Bob Fischer advises caregivers for seniors and provides substantive and resourceful guidance to those in need of respite caregivers.