Home Tech & Self Care in the Spotlight
for National Family Caregivers Month
As the United States population ages, more and more people will become caregivers.
Currently, 90 million people, or nearly a third of the population, fulfill this challenging role, with 15 million of them providing care services unpaid.
Caregivers primarily provide assistance to the elderly, and the vast majority of seniors want to age comfortably in their own homes. This includes individuals living with Alzheimer’s Disease.
This year’s Conference on Aging called unpaid caregivers the “backbone of long-term services” because nearly two-thirds of seniors depend wholly on caregivers for their needs. Most of the rest depend on a combination of informal caregivers and professional care.
According to the Conference on Aging website, the average caregiver provides about 75 hours of care a month – or over two hours per day. In 2011, they provided care that was worth $234 billion. By contrast, Medicaid paid for $131.4 billion while private organizations covered $24.4 billion. Although Medicare provides medical insurance for 90% of the country’s seniors, it does not cover long-term care. Medicaid does – but there are waiting lists in some states.
Caregivers, however, seldom receive recognition for their services. As their seniors’ conditions worsen, they can lose the ability to communicate and are thus not always able to express their gratitude. Caregivers need to be told that their work matters. They need reassurance and guidance from healthcare professionals to make certain they are doing the right thing.
Most Caregivers are dedicated to the people they help. Yet, too often, Self-care is not an easy matter for them. They need praise and help from friends and family.
In 2012, President Obama proclaimed November to be National Family Caregivers Month. The initiative would honor people who were caring for a disabled or elderly loved one, and it would call attention to the needs of the Caregiver. National Family Caregivers Month always has a different theme each year. This year, it’s “Respite: Care for Caregivers.”
People who care for an elderly or disabled loved one are generally under a great deal of stress and they do not always practice self-care to take care of themselves. This can have a detrimental effect on their health and there have been cases of caregivers dying before their elderly do.
Some organizations and websites do provide help for caregivers. ARCH or Access to Respite Care and Help describes itself as a “resource center and respite network.” It is a database that helps caregivers find support groups and includes information about caring for people with specific disabilities and how-to find funding, in addition to offering webinars and other training resources. The National Alliance for Caregiving is a group of organizations dedicated to easing the lives of caregivers.
They conduct research on the demographics of caregivers and provide information that caregivers can use. AARP, which is generally thought of as being mainly concerned with seniors, also supports caregivers. Last October, the organization launched an initiative called Random Acts of Kindness for Caregivers to encourage the friends and family of caregivers to support them.
There is also an array of technologies to help caregivers in their work. These include wearable devices that contain sensors that monitor items like the patient’s heart rate or body temperature. Many of these also contain trackers that enable a caregiver to keep tabs on their charge’s whereabouts. These devices are often linked to the caregiver’s computer or smartphone and can alert the caregiver if their charge falls or wanders off.
There are smartphones designed for seniors and gadgets to help both caregivers and their charges keep track of medications. Smart security systems monitor seniors and their surroundings and can call for help if need be. These gadgets can make life easier for caregivers and help seniors keep their independence longer.