Imagine an amusement park ride that took you on a virtual emotional journey through love, anger, stress, satisfaction, frustration, joy, depression, closeness, anxiety, fulfillment, and guilt. What would such a ride feel like? What life experience IS that ride and contains all these emotions? The answer is the out of balance life of an adult child caring for elderly parents.
You may ask if this description fits for even for those who have a good, healthy relationship with their aging parents. The answer is, “Yes”. The full gamut of emotions tends to be part of the experience for most caregivers. What differs between the two groups is the intensity of feelings and the duration of the negative experiences.
Unfortunately, the emotional roller coaster of the adult child-caregiver is only one aspect of the spine-tingling ride through one of life’s most complex and trying stages. The physical demands that can include housekeeping needs along with varying levels of assistance with basic life skills are also stressful. In addition, there are legal, financial, administrative, and medical needs to consider. And let’s not forget the emergency phone calls, hospital trips, interrupted plans, and difficult decisions involving care including the gut wrenching ones regarding placement in nursing facilities and end of life care.
Recent statistics can help us to grasp the magnitude of the effect of caregiver stress on not only individuals, but also on our society. It has been estimated that more than 25% of American families are involved in elder/parent care in some way. Currently the Baby Boomers are the most involved in this role. Since this is the largest segment of our population at present, it is a significant issue.
It has been reported that $34 billion a year is lost in employee productivity because of elder care responsibilities. This is more than that lost from childcare. In addition, it has cost industry more than $7 billion a year to replace workers who leave jobs to care for the elderly. Seventy seven percent of those who remain in the workforce, report less effective job performance. It has also been found that more employees develop health problems from the stress of elder care than from child care. These statistics clearly show that there are many challenges for the caregiver, as well as for society as a whole.
The complexity, magnitude of competing needs, stress, conflicting emotions and sheer physical drain of caring for an elderly family member is enough to make you wish you had skipped Math and English class and majored instead in Caregiving 101, or in the PhD program, Saving Your Sanity in the Midst of Chaos and Confusion. Fear not, you can learn now. Our radio show Caregiver Corner addresses the stresses and concerns of caregivers each Monday morning on BlogTalk radio. In addition, we will be discussing these issues here on the blog, in a teleclass series in the fall and in our soon to be released book: Self Care for the Caregiver: The Heart of Compassion. Our intention with these efforts is to take our learning and experience and provide you with the support, comfort, wisdom and stress relief you need in order to navigate the choppy waters of caregiving and make it safely to shore with your whole self intact.