Question: My 74-year old mother is a challenge. She has an unknown condition affecting her balance and strength and is clear about being independent.  I arranged care for both day and night.  My mother dismissed the night person.  As a self-employed graphic designer, I fill in the time when the caregiver is not there — early morning and evenings.  At this point, I am a wreck with worry that she will fall during the night.  I am exhausted, frustrated and need some help.

Answer:
Although this is no consolation, you are not alone. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, each year more than 50 million people provide some caregiving services.  Eighty to 90 percent is provided by family members.

Here are some statistics that give us a picture of caregivers in the U.S.:

  • The average caregiver is a 46-year old woman working outside the home. She spends an average of 18 hours a week on caregiving responsibilities.
  • In 2007, the estimated annual value of caregiving was $375 billion.  That amount is comparable to Wal-Mart’s total sales in the same year.
  • Almost one-third of family caregivers for older adults are 65 or over.
  • Family caregivers who experience a high level of stress age prematurely, reducing their life expectancy by as much as 10 years.
  • American businesses can lose as much as $34 billion each year due to their employees caring for a loved one 50 or older.  Time off, distractions and coming in late are factored into the cost.
  • Those providing elder-care services in 2007 had out-of pocket expenses, on the average, of $5,531.

California, the state with the largest population of people 65 and older, also has the largest number of family caregivers in the U.S. – almost 3.5  million.  The state with the next largest number of family caregivers is Texas, with just over 2 million.

The questions remains: What to do?

Regarding night care, you might consider the type of individual who is on the night shift.  Have the previous ones hovered over her?  Can she feel some independence with someone living in her home?  Does she just need a very quiet person during the evening shift?

If after making your case your mother remains firm, you might have to back off.  That’s a calculated risk.  When a person asserts his or her or right to be independent and is competent, the right needs to be respected.  The problem is that the consequences of such a decision can fall on the adult daughter or son.

A big challenge is “managing it all.”  Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Take some time off from caregiving.  Perhaps another family member or friend can fill in to provide some respite for you.
  • Join a support group with others who may have a similar experience.  There is much to learn from one another.
  • Take care of yourself. Remember the importance of exercise, nutrition, sleep and stress management.  In a quiet moment, write down all of the healthy things you are doing.  Then write the changes you want to make and the resources that can support you. In the Nike tradition… “just do it.”
  • Identify what brings joy into your life.  Incorporate at least one “joy item” into your daily schedule.  It could be a walk at the beach or coffee with a friend.  The daily dose of joy is important for all of us.

Rosalyn Carter said it best:  “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”

Best wishes in managing your demanding situation while maintaining a good relationship with your mother.

P.S.  November is national caregiver’s month.  Its purpose is to draw attention to the challenges facing caregivers and to increase awareness of public policies and support services offered by communities.

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.

Question: My 74-year old mother is a challenge. She has an unknown condition affecting her balance and strength and is clear about being independent.  I arranged care for both day and night.  My mother dismissed the night person.  As a self-employed graphic designer, I fill in the time when the caregiver is not there — early morning and evenings.  At this point, I am a wreck with worry that she will fall during the night.  I am exhausted, frustrated and need some help.

Answer:
Although this is no consolation, you are not alone. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, each year more than 50 million people provide some caregiving services.  Eighty to 90 percent is provided by family members.

Here are some statistics that give us a picture of caregivers in the U.S.:

  • The average caregiver is a 46-year old woman working outside the home. She spends an average of 18 hours a week on caregiving responsibilities.
  • In 2007, the estimated annual value of caregiving was $375 billion.  That amount is comparable to Wal-Mart’s total sales in the same year.
  • Almost one-third of family caregivers for older adults are 65 or over.
  • Family caregivers who experience a high level of stress age prematurely, reducing their life expectancy by as much as 10 years.
  • American businesses can lose as much as $34 billion each year due to their employees caring for a loved one 50 or older.  Time off, distractions and coming in late are factored into the cost.
  • Those providing elder-care services in 2007 had out-of pocket expenses, on the average, of $5,531.

California, the state with the largest population of people 65 and older, also has the largest number of family caregivers in the U.S. – almost 3.5  million.  The state with the next largest number of family caregivers is Texas, with just over 2 million.

The questions remains: What to do?

Regarding night care, you might consider the type of individual who is on the night shift.  Have the previous ones hovered over her?  Can she feel some independence with someone living in her home?  Does she just need a very quiet person during the evening shift?

If after making your case your mother remains firm, you might have to back off.  That’s a calculated risk.  When a person asserts his or her or right to be independent and is competent, the right needs to be respected.  The problem is that the consequences of such a decision can fall on the adult daughter or son.

A big challenge is “managing it all.”  Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Take some time off from caregiving.  Perhaps another family member or friend can fill in to provide some respite for you.
  • Join a support group with others who may have a similar experience.  There is much to learn from one another.
  • Take care of yourself. Remember the importance of exercise, nutrition, sleep and stress management.  In a quiet moment, write down all of the healthy things you are doing.  Then write the changes you want to make and the resources that can support you. In the Nike tradition… “just do it.”
  • Identify what brings joy into your life.  Incorporate at least one “joy item” into your daily schedule.  It could be a walk at the beach or coffee with a friend.  The daily dose of joy is important for all of us.

Rosalyn Carter said it best:  “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”

Best wishes in managing your demanding situation while maintaining a good relationship with your mother.

P.S.  November is national caregiver’s month.  Its purpose is to draw attention to the challenges facing caregivers and to increase awareness of public policies and support services offered by communities.

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.