Imagine you are responsible for the care of a spouse or parent with dementia. He does not recognize you. He needs help dressing or toileting, but his innate modesty causes him to fight attempts to help. In fact, occasionally he reacts aggressively or even violently. He is otherwise physically healthy, and may remain in this condition for years to come.
This example is all too real for many caregivers. And they are exhausted.
More than 65 million people -- approximately 29% of the U.S. population -- are caregivers for a chronically ill, disabled or aged individual. Not surprisingly, the vast majority are unpaid family caregivers.
This heroic effort may be what families do for each other, but its costs are very real. For 47% of working caregivers, the increase in caregiving expenses has caused them to use up all or most of their savings.
The relentless time commitment may be an even bigger burden. Caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care, while 13% of family caregivers provide care 40 hours or more each week.
And there are other serious costs. More than half of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression.
Caregivers must put family needs before their own; balance personal, work and caregiving demands; manage physical and emotional stress; and ensure the financial costs of care are paid. These demands can become a whirlpool drowning the caregiver even as that caregiver is attempting to buoy the care recipient.
There are resources available for caregivers. The Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership, www.eicap.org, has helpful information. For those who are struggling with the demands of caregiving, do not hesitate to ask for help. You, and the person you are caring for, will both be better off.
Those of us who may be in need of future care have perhaps the most significant responsibility. In upcoming columns, we will discuss steps you can take now to prepare for potential long term care needs; and to help ease the burden on those who love you most.
© 2015 Steven J Wright