What is Respite Care?

According to CARP, more than 8 million Canadians provided unpaid care to family member or friend. More than 1 million caregivers are older than 65. The Center for Disease Control reports that over half (53%) of caregivers indicated that a decline in their health compromises their ability to provide care.

The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) reports that 40 to 70 percent of caregivers exhibit clinically significant symptoms of depression.

Caring for a senior loved one is both rewarding and challenging. Family caregivers need to remember that it’s important to take necessary breaks and practice self-care so they can ensure that they continue to find joy in their role.

Respite care is defined as the transfer of primary caregiving responsibilities to another person, typically a professional caregiver, relative or friend, in order for primary caregivers to receive temporary relief from caregiving responsibilities. Respite care takes many forms – some family caregivers choose to have someone take on caregiver duties for a few hours a week or a few hours a day. Or, some schedule respite care for longer periods of time to accommodate an extended break or vacation.

This can be particularly important for those caring for a senior that has a severe illness. A study led by the Stanford Center on Longevity and Stanford University Psychology Department, which was conducted with assistance from Comfort Keepers and Clear Care, found that for older family caregivers:

  • Caring for a loved one with a mild illness generally leaves them in the same emotional state as their peers – with emotional well-being generally greater than that of younger adults.
  • When responsible for a loved one with a severe illness, reported emotional well-being tended to be lower than those of their peers.
  • The cause of a decrease in emotional well-being is attributed to caregiver’s inability to pursue their social goals and friendships.

The purpose of this study was to help identify the unique challenges and stressors that family caregivers face. As a partner in this research study, we reached out to the family members and decision-makers of approximately 2,000 Comfort Keepers clients.

These results suggest that older people have higher emotional well-being than younger people but not when they have a relative with a severe illness. Not all older people with ailing relatives have low well-being; rather, it depends on the severity of the relative’s ailment.

Caring for a senior loved one can be fulfilling and can strengthen bonds within a family. But it’s important to recognize that being a family caregiver can come with feelings of loss, stress and physical strain. Caregivers risk their own health and wellbeing when they don’t account for their own needs or take a break when necessary, and respite care provides a convenient solution for many families.

Comfort Keepers® Can Help

Trusting your loved one with someone else can be difficult, but with Comfort Keepers®, you can trust that he or she will be in capable hands. Our specially trained caregivers will stay with your loved one while you take care of yourself, for as much or as little time as you need. And, every client receives a custom care plans that aims to engage them in intellectual, physical and emotional exercises and activities. To learn more about our uplifting in-home and respite services, contact your nearest Comfort Keepers® office today.

 

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Caregiving for Family and Friends – A Public Health Issue.” Web. 2019.

CARP. “Caregiving by the Numbers.” Web.

Family Caregiver Alliance. “Policy and Advocacy.” Web.

Alzheimer’s Association. “Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center: Respite Care.” Web. 2017

Stanford Center on Longevity. “Age and Emotional Well-Being: The Varied Emotional Experience of Family Caregivers” by Sarah Raposo, Jessica Barnes, Tamara Sims, Amy Yotopoulos, Lara Carstensen, Mary Bowman, Jacquelyn Kung. Web. 2017. Read more about the study here. https://www.comfortkeepers.com/family-caregiver-study

Compassion Fatigue: What Family Caregivers Need to Know

Knowing the Limits

Caring for others is often driven by motivations of love and understanding. It’s not uncommon for family caregivers to initially feel that their capacity for helping those they love is nearly limitless. From taking care of finances and managing medications to preparing meals and cleaning, there’s certainly a sense of fulfillment that comes along with assisting a loved one. But many find themselves going through the motions of caring without taking time out to focus on their own needs – often to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. As a result, family caregivers may feel something they’ve never experienced before decreased empathy. This condition is known as compassion fatigue.

According to CARP more than 8 million Canadians provided informal care to family member or friend. More than 1 million caregivers are older than 65.

In decades past, compassion fatigue was seen primarily in healthcare professionals. This should hardly come as a surprise considering the profession involves constantly helping patients who are suffering or experiencing a diminished quality of life. But as the country’s aging population continues to grow, there are many family caregivers who are left feeling much the same way.

In addition to the lower threshold of empathy, family caregivers experiencing compassion fatigue may feel the following:

  • Exhaustion (physical and/or emotional)
  • Feelings of dread or guilt
  • Irritability, anxiety, or anger
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Trouble finding meaning in caregiving
  • Self-isolation

The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project notes that the worst symptom of compassion fatigue is denial because it prohibits family caregivers from examining the feelings associated with their caregiving situation. And if ignored for an extended period of time, family caregivers may begin to feel resentment toward their loved one, ultimately leading to a communication breakdown and strained relationship.

 

Outside relationships suffer as well. In a collaborative research study with the Stanford Center on Longevity, Comfort Keepers, and ClearCare, it was indicated that those responsible for a loved one with a severe illness experience poor emotional wellbeing because of their inability to properly maintain their social lives. The results of the study highlight the increasing need for family caregivers to not only acknowledge their compassion fatigue but also take steps toward self-care. Doing so can certainly help the family caregiver, but it will also help mend the relationship with their loved one.

What to Do Next

Below are a few steps that family caregivers can take to combat compassion fatigue and get back to feeling positive about caring for their loved ones.

  • Understand the common signs of compassion fatigue (listed above) and acknowledge them if they occur.
  • Practice a self-care regimen that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and consistent sleep.
  • Carve out time to spend with friends and maintain social connections.
  • Find a caregiver support program, either in the community or online.
  • Document your thoughts and feelings related to caregiving in a journal.
  • Choose healthy activities during your downtime (e.g., go for a walk, meditate, or practice a favorite hobby).
  • Discuss your feelings with a counselor or therapist.

 

Comfort Keepers® Can Help

Caring for others, especially those who have been instrumental in our upbringing, can be uniquely rewarding. At Comfort Keepers®, we value the relationships family caregivers have with their loved ones, and it’s our goal to help maintain them. We offer respite care and senior care services that help family caregivers take the time they need to practice self-care, with peace of mind that their loved ones are receiving quality assistance.

 

Learn more about our respite care and senior care services by contacting a local office today.

 

 

 

References:

Good Therapy. “The Cost of Caring: 10 Ways to Prevent Compassion Fatigue.” Web. 2016.

Psychology Today. “Are You Suffering from Compassion Fatigue?” by Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. Web. 2014.

Stanford Center on Longevity. “Spotlight on Caregiving: Exploring the Well-being of Family Caregivers” by
Sarah Raposo, Jessica Barnes, Tamara Sims, Amy Yotopoulos, Laura Carstensen, Mary Bowman,
Jacquelyn Kung. Web. 2016.

Daily Caring. “How to Cope with Compassion Fatigue: 8 Tips for Caregiver.” Web. 2017.

CARP. “Facts and Figures.” Web. 2018.

Senior Recovery after a Heart Attack

What you can expect when your senior loved one returns home after a heart attack depends on its severity and the actual damage to the heart. Seniors over 65 may need eight weeks or more to fully recover, and are more prone to complications than younger patients. If your elder loved one has had a heart attack, it’s essential to understand the changes necessary for a successful recovery.