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The True Impact of Elder Care on Family Caregivers

Tens of millions of Americans provide elder care to loved ones as unpaid caregivers, and the number continues to rise year after year.

But even with so many Americans providing care for family members, most people don’t understand how caregiving impacts family caregivers. It’s only when people become caregivers themselves that they discover how physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing it can be, and how difficult it makes other aspects of day-to-day life.

At Visiting Angels®, we’ve seen the impact that caring for a loved one can have on families. We’ve also seen how much in-home care services can help in relieving some of the workload and pressures faced by family caregivers.

Impact of Unpaid Elder Care

Physical Health Impact

Providing elder care to a spouse, parent, or grandparent can be physically taxing. Many unpaid caregivers routinely over-exert themselves, stretching their endurance to the limits and performing tasks that put their bodies at risk.

At the same time, unpaid caregivers routinely struggle to prioritize their own physical health. They exercise less, sleep fewer hours, and neglect their diet. Taken together, this puts unpaid elder care providers at high risk of injury, disability, and chronic health conditions.

Fast facts: 

  • Family caregivers report high rates of insomnia, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise.
  • Rates of injuries, chronic conditions, and mortality are much higher among caregivers.
  • Many family caregivers say that they struggle to find time for regular doctor visits.

Mental Health Impact

In addition to its physical toll, providing unpaid elder care is linked to serious mental health conditions, including stress, anxiety, and depression. These conditions are so common among unpaid caregivers that “caregiver burnout” is now recognized as a distinct phenomenon by doctors and psychologists.

Making things worse, the physical and mental health impacts of unpaid caregiving feed off of one another. Stress and depression increase the risk of several health problems as well as rates of self-neglect. Meanwhile, poor sleeping, eating, and exercise habits have been proven to increase the likelihood of stress and depression, while exacerbating their effects.

Fast facts:

  • In surveys, family caregivers report abnormally high rates of stress and extreme stress.
  • Surveys have also found that caregivers report high rates of depression and major depression.
  • Extreme stress has been linked with symptoms of premature aging among family caregivers.

Professional Impact

Providing elder care to a family member takes an extraordinary amount of time and energy.

Unsurprisingly, many family caregivers struggle to make caregiving fit with their work schedule. Caregiving emergencies and general exhaustion increase rates of lateness and absenteeism. And many workers end up taking sick days or vacation time to make more time for caregiving.

Unsurprisingly, many unpaid caregivers report that providing elder care has harmed their career. Meanwhile, businesses lose tens of billions of dollars each year as employees struggle with caregiving duties.

Fast facts:

  • Around 6 in 10 family caregivers continue to work while providing elder care to a loved one.
  • Roughly two-thirds of family caregivers have to make significant changes to their work life.
  • Many family caregivers report having been fired or having to quit work as a result of caregiving.

Family Impact

In most families, elder care is provided mainly or entirely by just one person. This can lead to conflicts between the caregiver and other family members who are not providing care. Caregiving can also change the dynamic of the relationship between the caregiver and the care recipient, creating new areas of conflict and stress.

Meanwhile, family caregivers often struggle to maintain a balance between caregiving duties and their own family life. They have less and less time to spend with their spouse or children. And the stress of caregiving makes it hard to enjoy the time they do spend with their family members.

Fast facts:

  • Family caregivers routinely struggle to find time for their own partners and children.
  • Many family caregivers say that caregiving has strained their relationship with the care recipient.
  • Unpaid caregivers frequently report receiving little understand or support from siblings.

In-Home Care Services Can Help

Caring for an elderly family member can be a lot more manageable with in-home care services. While most people frame in-home care as beneficial to the person receiving care, it is often just as helpful to family caregivers.

Even a part-time caregiver who only visits once or twice a week can make caring for a loved one more manageable. A professional caregiver can reduce the overall workload for family caregivers and handle the toughest caregiving tasks. As a result, physical, mental, and emotional health improves for family caregivers.

At the same time, it becomes easier to balance caregiving with your work life and family life. In fact, care visits can be scheduled specifically to help family caregivers manage their work schedule and find more time for family.

Do you provide elder care for a spouse, parent, or grandparent? Lear more about in-home care options in your area by calling your local Visiting Angels today!

Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.