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Care Givers | Learn how to Take Care of Yourself
Care Givers

  • Caregiving can be difficult emotionally, physically and financially for the person giving the care.  Caregivers shop for groceries and other needed items, cook, clean house, help with baths and personal hygiene, transport to medical/dental appointments, provide hands-on medical care, and so much more. 
  • The impact on caregivers can include more stress, financial pressure and health-related problems of their own.  They try to juggle caregiving with their career, marriage, and family.  About half of family caregivers are in the workforce.  Not only are family and friends tapped to provide a large portion of the care frail old people need, but they are also tasked to provide more complicated care. 

    Caregivers have little training despite the fact that they often undertake tasks once solely the realm of skilled professionals like doctors and nurses.  Because family caregivers typically fall into the role without learning a right or wrong way to provide care, they have little confidence in their own know-how to get the job done.  As a result, such caregivers are at greater risk for burnout, depression and not being able to care for themselves.  Caregivers need support, including training, and must be incorporated into the formal care team - usually made up of professionals, including doctors and home health providers, among others - as a critical and active member. 

    To further complicate things,
    because of health privacy and security rules, those caregivers are among the least likely to be able to get the information they need to coordinate and manage care for their frail or ailing relatives or friends.   There is a great need for individuals while healthy to make sure they have completed paperwork to name trusted people to speak for them medically, and just as importantly, to receive information about their care should need arise. 

    An additional concern is - who will provide the care for the growing number of single men and women when divorce and remarriage may weaken adult children's sense of obligation?    (Source:  2016 annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America; Jennifer L. Wolff, a gerontologist researcher and associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; Rani Snyder, program director of The John A. Hartford Foundation which focuses on improving care for older adults; Jacquelyn Benson, University of Missouri, 2016)
  • Caregiving can strengthen family relationships and give your life a sense of purpose. However, it can also test your stress because of the long hours and strain the emotional bonds between the caregiver and the person being cared for.

    Those who live closest to the person being cared for usually bear the greatest burden.  The oldest or youngest daughter generally becomes the caregiver, while sons tend to be less involved.

    Three key ways to support family harmony: (Manage your Stress Level)

    1. Talk openly together about how the caregiving challenge will affect everyone’s lives in the family.

    2. Negotiate roles so that the sacrifice is spread around and each person in the family has a responsibility.

    3. Look ahead to upcoming caregiving changes, maintaining a realistic yet sensitive outlook. 

(Source:  Better Health and Living Magazine, Linda Rao, Fall 2005)

  • Caregiver Stress Test:   Signs that you are overly stressed
    1. You feel like you have to do it all yourself and that you should be doing more

    2. You withdraw from family, friends and activities that you used to enjoy.
    3. You worry that the person you care for is safe.

    4. You feel anxious about money and healthcare decisions.
    5. You deny the impact of the disease and its effects on your family.

    6. You feel grief or sadness that your relationship with the person isn’t what it used to be.

    7. You get frustrated and angry when the person with dementia continually repeats things and doesn’t seem to listen.
    8. You have health problems that are taking a toll on you mentally and physically.
 (Source: The Adult Care Magazine)

  • Watch for signs that hiring a caregiver could help:
    • The current caregiver, such as a spouse or adult child, is feeling burned out or neglecting their own job or health

    • The client’s home is in disarray or disrepair

    • The client is not taking medications properly
    • The client has suffered a fall

      However, the top consideration should be the client’s wishes.

      To check the license of a caregiver agency, check the state Department’s site at http://www.doh.wa.gov, click on “Licenses Permits & Certificates” and go to “Provider Credential Search.” Caregiver agencies fall under the “Health facility” category.   (Source:  “Helping hand at home”, by Adrian Rogers, The Spokesman-Review,  4-16-2013)

  • Those caring for family members between the age of 66 and 96 and who experience mental or emotional strain, are at a higher risk for health problems, as well as 63% more at risk for an early death.  (Family Caregiver Alliance, 2012)

  • Stress is the number one challenge facing the more than 6000,000 family caregivers caring for loved ones in Washington State. 
  (Source: Family Caregiver Support Program)

  • Caregiving impacts work-life balance.  The best way to prevent becoming overwhelmed by caregiving is to talk about arrangements in advance with parents, siblings, and employers.

    • At least 43.5% million Americans are already providing care for someone 50 years and older, and that number is only going to increase.

    • Leaving the workforce early or reducing hours to care for an elderly relative costs the average woman caregiver $324,044 in lost wages and Social Security benefits.
    • The “average” caregiver is a 49-year old woman who works outside the home.

    • 74% of caregivers have worked at a paying job.
    • Six in ten Americans past the age of 50 provide financial support to family members, with 68% supporting adult children and 16% supporting parents.

    • Caregivers aged 18-39 showed significantly higher rates of high cholesterol, hypertension, depression and heart disease in comparison to non-caregivers of the same age.
   (Source: Devon Merling, “What caregiving takes”, Deseret News, 12-8-13)

  • Close to 4 in 10 American adults provide care to an adult or child with a significant health issues.

    • The percentage of U.S. adults who are caregivers jumped to 39% in 2013 from 30% in 2010.

    • As many as 72% of caregivers gather health information online, compared to 50% who are not caregivers.
    • Three-fourths of American adults 65 and older live with a chronic condition.

    • Online resources have helped 59% of caregivers accomplish the task and 52% of caregivers with Internet access say online resources have helped them cope with the stress of being a caregiver.

    • Seven in ten caregivers track one of their own health indicators such as weight, diet or blood pressure more than non-caregivers do.   (Source: DN, Lois M. Collins, “Wired for Health”, 7-14-13)
What You Can Do

Take Care of Yourself

  • Care givers need support.  In all your devoted effort to assist with another's health, do not destroy your own.  Talk with other family members, counselors and social workers who can help give needed support.  It is a lot of work on the caregiver to maintain the patience required to provide a loving atmosphere.  Care giving is an important but difficult job. 
  • Make sure you find good support services and access those.
  • Associate with people who are uplifting and who provide encouragement in the work you are doing. 
  • Get a yearly checkup and let your doctor know you are a caregiver.  Making sure that you stay healthy will help you be a better caregiver.  
  • Make time for yourself each day—read, walk in nature, exercise, watch a sunrise, talk to friends, and do something you enjoy, something that fills you instead of draining you.  Make time each day to regenerate your energy and keep things in perspective—and ponder the truths you know, and what you are learning from this experience.  
  • Learn to relax so you can continue to feel happy and at peace—then, your joys in life will not diminish.
  • Eat healthy, sleep well, and preserve your health. 

Manage your Stress Level

  • Respite care is needed and available, because care giving is tough.  
  • Remember— your situation has changed, and you probably will not be able to accelerate your efforts and energy to keep up your previous pace.  Accept the fact that your former time and priorities will change to adjust to caring for the needs of another.  Slow down a little to absorb the shock and steady your life.  
  • Prioritize every day and decide what matters and what does not.  Focus on the essentials and things that matter most.  Don’t be afraid to tell people, “I would love to, but I just can’t right now.”  Place a high priority on your family by setting aside meaningful time for them.  Simplify your life in areas that are possible, rather than over-schedule your days.   God does not expect you to run faster than you have strength.
  • Maintain a sense of humor.  There are so many wonderful things that happen in the care giving role; and if you approach that with a sense of humor, you will be less stressed.  
  • Don’t harbor resentment from long-ago conflicts—let it go!   Enjoy this time together, and you will find that your attitude also improves.
  • Compliment yourself.  Every day find something you did well, and say to yourself, “Good work.  You did a nice job.”  Recognize that the care you provide makes a difference, and you are doing the best you can.  Also, compliment the person you are giving care to.  Thank them for the nice things that they do and for the positive way that they are responding to you.
  • Know when to seek outside help.  If you find you are under stress, or if people notice that you are not the same person that you were when you began this care giving role, consider seeking professional help—legal advice, accounting advice, medical advice, and government assistance counsel.  Also, monitor the person in your care giving—if they also are decreasing in their ability to interact positively, consider the possibility of professional help for them as well.
  • Recognize the physical symptoms of stress.   Be aware of what your body is telling you.  Pay attention to exhaustion, insomnia, stomach irritation, blurred vision, high blood pressure, and changes in behavior (irritability, lack of concentration, change in appetite).  Note your symptoms.  Use relaxation techniques and talk to your doctor.  Try to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. 
  • Support Groups.  If you find you are losing your temper, or you are not eating or sleeping well, you may need a support group.  You may need to ask family, friends or others to help you—and don’t be bashful about doing that. 

    Always accept help when it is offered.  Create a list of very specific things that you would love to have help with, so you can request something specific when help is offered.  People want to help, and if they can do something tangible to help you, they would love to do that; and that will help control your stress. 

    Ask your church for some help.  A religious or spiritual community of friends can be a strong source of assistance. 
  • Find group support or individual counseling to learn about available resources and how to access them.  
  • Remember—whenever you are on the Lord’s errand to give service, you are entitled to His help.  Study the scriptures and pray daily to seek and receive inspired guidance and comfort from a God who loves you and is aware of your needs. 
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

There are many services available
to help reduce caregiver depression, anxiety, stress, strain and health problems.  

Providence Adult Day Health
6018 N Astor
Spokane, WA   99208
Caring for the Elderly and Caregivers.  Providing respite for caregivers, nursing, rehabilitation, case management, and activities for loved ones.