Caregiving is often a physically, not to mention emotionally demanding job. Caregivers that are carrying too much responsibility may miss personal appointments, ignore personal medical concerns, eat unhealthily due to lack of time or appetite, overuse alcohol, lose sleep, have fewer social connections, experience depression, and feel resentfulness and annoyance. For those who are aging, this can have an even greater negative impact on your health and general well-being than on younger caregivers. Find out more about the demands of caregiving on older adults in this week's podcast.
About Hospice Quinte
Hospice Quinte provides individuals, their families, and caregivers with compassionate end of life care, by attending to their physical, psychosocial, and practical needs, and offering empathetic care to those who are grieving through visiting hospice services and support groups. All Hospice Quinte programs and services are provided by compassionate, well-trained volunteers and staff at no charge to the individual or their family.
Hospice Quinte serves a population of over 102,000 in Quinte West, Belleville, Deseronto, Tyendinaga Township and the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. To find out more visit HospiceQuinte.ca.Support the show (https://hospicequinte.ca/donate/)
Caregiving is often a physically, not to mention emotionally demanding job. Caregivers that are carrying too much responsibility may miss personal appointments, ignore personal medical concerns, eat unhealthily due to lack of time or appetite, overuse alcohol, lose sleep, have fewer social connections, experience depression, and feel resentfulness and annoyance. For those who are aging, this can have an even greater negative impact on your health and general well-being than on younger caregivers.
Often, people who are older experience the same symptoms of aging. For example, a declining quality of eyesight and hearing and increasing mobility issues. Walking, driving, or taking public transit may all become more difficult as people age. When seniors are experiencing these natural results of aging, this can make caregiving more challenging, and the caregiving role may worsen the natural effects of growing older.
The right amount of good quality sleep is important for everyone, but it may be in short supply for those caring for someone who is terminally ill. Researchers have found that 95% of family members who provide palliative care have serious sleep problems. Often caregivers will minimize their sleep problems, saying that they aren’t as much of a concern as the health issues their loved one is going through. However, a lack of sleep can have some potentially serious side effects.
People who don’t get enough sleep can experience a decline in their overall physical health and flare ups of chronic health conditions. Mental health can be affected, too. Caregivers who aren’t getting enough sleep may feel less able to cope with the emotional ups and downs of caring for a loved one who is dying. We all know how angry a tired toddler can be, but even adults who are suffering from lack of sleep can become irritable, angry, resentful, and may do or say things they regret later.
All of these are reasons why older caregivers need more support than younger caregivers. Studies show that caregivers aged 66 to 96 have a 63% increased risk of dying compared to people the same who are not caring for a loved one. This is a significant statistic that shows just how demanding caregiving is on caregivers. However, telling older caregivers that they need more help can be offensive if they assume you think they’re unable to properly care for their loved one. To avoid this kind of accusation, choose your words carefully. Older caregivers need to be offered help that will preserve their autonomy and agency in their own care and in caring for their loved one. If they are not properly caring for their loved one and themselves, it’s not on purpose, but is due to natural limitations and the demands of the job.
What older caregivers also need is for health care providers to ask the right questions to find better solutions that will help both the patient and the older caregiver. This will allow for individualized care and support to help them in their caregiving role, while not sacrificing their own well-being. Older caregivers can help make conversations like this happen by being honest about their challenges as an aging caregiver. What older caregivers need from their adult children is patience, understanding, and creative solutions that avoid them completely taking over for their parent’s care. For example, maybe their adult children could schedule a day they come to care for their ill loved one, but not completely take over the caregiving responsibilities by finding 24/7 care. If the older caregiver is able to offer some support, figure out ways for them to still do so. Someone that is older is already undergoing losses due to their aging. They need to be better supported instead of replaced as they provide care to their loved one. Staying in this role in some capacity increases their self-worth and purpose amidst a series of changes and losses.
At Hospice Quinte, we have a visiting volunteer program, where volunteers are matched with patients and their families to offer emotional, practical, spiritual, and grief support. This program is perfect for older caregivers who need someone to come to them to support them because of their health and natural limitations. It also allows caregivers to get out of the house or spend quality time with their loved one as a spouse or sibling, instead of as a caregiver.
Since 1985, Hospice Quinte has been changing the lives of the terminally ill, their families, and the bereaved for the better by offering support and companionship through visiting hospice services and support groups. All Hospice Quinte services are provided at no charge by compassionate and well-trained volunteers and staff. Our service area includes Belleville, Quinte West, Deseronto, Tyendinaga Township and the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. As a charitable not-for-profit organization, Hospice Quinte relies on its relationships with individuals, business, and charitable foundations in the community. Without the generosity of our donors, Hospice Quinte’s work could not be possible.