Google the term “Caregiver Burnout” and you’ll find over one million results. From articles to opinions to videos, advice on preventing burnout is all over the web.
Clearly, this is a problem. Spotting the problem is generally easy; coming up with a solution is where the going gets tough.
Do you call in help from the family?
Many family caregivers tell me that first, they assumed their siblings would see how hard they worked and offer to help. Later, they began demanding help. Finally, they had to accept that many family members simply couldn’t help. It usually boils down to the primary caregiver…burning out.
Do you turn to facility placement?
I’m an advocate for finding care communities that meet the needs of our aging loved ones. Both my mother and my father-in-law live in retirement communities. Both will tell you that the quality of their lives has increased significantly from what it would have been living alone in their former homes. Assisted living communities and memory care communities offer much in the way of person-centered, homelike care today.
But they can present both emotional and financial barriers to many family caregivers, especially those caring for spouses.
Do you get help to come into your home?
This too is a solution that literally saves the lives of family caregivers, in many situations. But cost is significant, and can quickly amount to more than moving into an assisted living residence if round-the-clock care is needed.
And then there’s the question that burns in our minds: who is providing the care?
Today in this country that’s a very serious question. Most caregivers, both in home-care and in facility care settings are entry level workers. They’ve got entry level training – if any – and they’re paid entry level wages. Many cannot afford their own health care, let alone child care, education and transportation.
This creates a caregiver group that struggles with their own burnout issues. They struggle to stay in jobs that may be emotionally gratifying, while financially marginal. They leave for jobs paying just a quarter an hour more – or just a couple bus stops closer to home.
That leaves families and the person receiving care in a position of turnover. New caregivers means new people to train. It means losing the knowledge that the old caregiver had of your loved one’s condition and needs. It means starting over to build a significant relationship with someone who is often performing intimate tasks for the client.
We have an opportunity today to shape the way we enter into the next generation of caregiving. Since so many of us – this massive, aging baby boomer generation – will one day need caregiving services ourselves, this is a task we’d better take on soon.
We cannot afford to avoid any opportunity to employ technology in our effort. We need to support online caregiver training (my own personal focus), online scheduling systems and care tracking/management programs. We need to refine currently available programs to let us communicate socially as well as health care data quickly, electronically – even automatically, in some cases.
We need to achieve economies in some areas so we can invest in other areas, like boosting the pay, training and professional regard of the paid caregiver.