In this episode of the Care Dimensions Learning Institute's podcast of Living Forever, Not an Option, our hosts, Lyn Skarmeas and Mary Crowe
discuss the importance of taking care of not just the individual on hospice or palliative care, but also the caregiver.
“Caregiving is hard, but knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life is so rewarding,” says Lyn. Both Lyn and Mary have experience as caregivers for family members, as well as being healthcare professionals. With their combined professional and personal experience, they discuss the often-forgotten step in taking care of a loved one: taking care of the caregiver and making sure they are supported.
A caregiver, in a general sense, is someone who cares for those who need assistance with daily activities and provides emotional support with those challenges. Lyn and Mary explain that there are different types of caregivers commonly found in the healthcare system-- informal or family caregivers and formal caregivers. Regardless of the title, a caregiver carries huge responsibilities for the person they're caring for as well as their own life. This is why it is so important that the caregiver is given support, proper resources and time for themselves in order to avoid burn out and provide the best quality of care to their loved one.
According to a recent study, 66% of caregivers are female and there are approximately 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S. who provide care to someone who is ill, disabled or who needs assistance. Of that 65.7 million, about 15.5 million caregivers are for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia-related illnesses. Despite such a large number of caregivers in this nation, many of them are not seeking out additional help to care for their loved one or for themselves. Mary explains that many caregivers may be under the assumption that to be a “better” caregiver they have to go above and beyond for their patient or loved one. The reality of the situation is that caregivers need to take better care of themselves to provide the best quality care.
As explained by Mary, the top challenge that comes with caregiving is the isolation it often brings, which can cause guilt, frustration and overwhelming feelings of helplessness.
Caregivers need to be encouraged to ask for help to get the support needed when caring for a loved one. Lyn and Mary remind listeners that caregivers need to be looked after and supported just as much as their loved ones. There are many resources that are available, especially in hospice. They emphasize that it's important to know your limits and reach out to these resources before reaching the point of burnout.
Listen to the podcast (click here)
Learn more about caregiver support resources
Watch our Timing is Everything television show that has numerous episodes covering different aspects of caregiving (click here).
About the author:
Mia Buscone is a marketing assistant working with the Care Dimensions Learning Institute.