According to Caregiver.org, there are 65.7 million unpaid Caregivers in the United States alone. 60% of those are women. Unpaid means that they take care of their patients at home because they are family members, friends, or in-laws. The resources for caregivers are definitely available, but often the Caregivers themselves are unaware of these resources.
The issue of finding the resources for caregivers is compounded by several factors:
- Caregivers are often so overwhelmed they don’t have time to even think about finding other resources.
- Many caregivers are not financially able to spend more money on hiring others to help.
- Available resource lists are often tucked away in the desks of Social Workers whose only contact is with patients who recently needed caregiver help.
- Many caregivers are of an age where using the Internet is not a familiar tool for them.
Briefly, item number 1 above is incredibly common. When traumatic medical events occur in a family, the disruption in the lives of those charged with caregiving is monumental. They may be working elsewhere. They may be in charge of children and all the needs of school, homework, laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, auto maintenance, and other housekeeping duties. The trauma of the medical event becomes yet another item to schedule into their day. Therefore the concept of looking for resources doesn’t even enter their mind.
Second on the above list: most people assume that a “resource” means hiring someone else to come into their home to assist in their caregiving duties. Yes, it is one type of resource, but in itself it involves two other things. First, it requires money–possibly more money than is available. Second, the sheer responsibility of finding, hiring, training, and then monitoring that help may be more trouble than actually doing it personally.
Item number 3 above is something that is so pervasive, that it is virtually impossible to count the number of actual unpaid Caregivers. Immediately during and after the initial traumatic medical event, the family of the patient is usually in direct contact with hospitals and other facilities that have a plethora of resources to share. However, once the patient goes home to live, regular contact with Social Workers and other medical personnel dwindles and eventually disappears. Oftentimes the Caregiver is in charge of the patient for years. This year after year duty is the one that is impossible to figure into statistics of unpaid Caregivers. Those long-term unpaid Caregivers are far away from current trends in Caregiver resources.
Number 4 above is the most sad in my opinion. Elderly people caregiving for elderly ill spouses are the most isolated as their computer skills and Internet access may be limited. They may not be aware of the value of an Internet search for finding resources to help them.
In the interest of keeping blog posts shorter, in the next 4 blog posts, I will address each of the above 4 items in more depth. This is the beginning of a series. Stay tuned….