When the Elderly Need Help, Who is Their "Natural Caregiver?”
When seniors can no longer manage basic tasks at home, family and friends usually step in to act as caregivers.
According to a Caregiving in 2020 Report released by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, 53 million Americans provide some form of unpaid care for seniors and other adults with functional or medical needs. The report states most caregivers care for a:
- Relative (89%)
- Parent or parent-in-law (50%)
- Spouse or partner (12%)
- Grandparent or grandparent-in-law (8%)
- Adult child (6%)
- Friend or neighbor (10%)
It’s a natural, loving act for family members to step in when a loved one needs support, but there’s an important aspect of caregiving to consider. What impact does caregiving have on existing family relationships, and how can family caregivers receive the support they need?
Family Caregivers and the Impact of Senior Care
Family dynamics can be complicated at the best of times, and caregiving can place a considerable strain on these complex bonds.
As the 2020 report shows, the majority of family caregivers are adult children who are supporting a parent or a parent-in-law. And while this can be a beautiful way for adult children to reciprocate the love and care they received growing up, it can also be a difficult transition for everyone.
For adult children, it can be upsetting to see the parent they looked up to in a vulnerable light. For parents, receiving help from their children — especially with simple tasks — can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing.
Adult children acting as primary caregivers may also spend considerably more time with their parents than they’re used to and under much more stressful circumstances.
For spouses and partners, caregiving can introduce new pressures and stresses that can affect long-standing relationship dynamics. In an article on caring for a spouse with dementia Today’s Caregiver notes caregivers may feel increasingly isolated, depressed, and unable to communicate with their partners.
Other family members including nieces, nephews, siblings, and grandchildren can also act as family caregivers for an elderly relative. These caring individuals will also face similar challenges as they balance caregiving duties with their existing relationships.
How Visiting Angels Supports Family Caregivers
As “natural caregivers” for their elderly loved ones, many family members may take on more than they can handle - and neglecting their own well-being in the process. Not only does this put family caregivers at risk for burnout, but it can keep them from sharing meaningful time with the relatives in their care.
At Visiting Angels®, we support family caregivers through our respite care services. Our caregivers can step in to provide relief for a day, a week, or even an afternoon so families can take a break and tend to their own lives.
Professional caregivers can help families feel more comfortable enjoying their loved one’s company without constantly dwelling on what needs to be done for their safety and comfort.