Family Caregivers Facing Health Challenges and Stress - What Can Be Done?

Aging is a reality worldwide. Families often find themselves having to be caregivers for older parents. Caregiving is physically and emotionally demanding, but family caregivers often ignore their own health and well-being.

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Family Caregivers Facing Health Challenges and Stress - What Can Be Done?
8 Min Read April 30th, 2024

Increasingly, families face the challenge of caring for a loved one. When a family member, often an older parent, requires assistance with daily activities that many take for granted, families have few options. This is especially true if the parent has dementia and requires constant supervision, often because no prior planning was made. 

Many people, perhaps you, think health insurance or Medicare will pay for long-term care services. The truth is traditional health insurance policies, including Medicare, only pay for short-term skilled care. In the United States, unless the care recipient has Long-Term Care Insurance or qualifies for Medicaid because of low income and assets, the responsibility falls on the individual and their family. In such cases, families have no choice but to step in. 

In-Home Long-Term Care: A Global Comparison

Providing long-term care for aging populations is a growing challenge for governments worldwide. While institutional care facilities exist, seniors strongly prefer to receive assistance in their own homes. In the U.S., long-term care is paid for primarily through Medicaid for those with little or no income or assets. Many states are allowing some in-home care to be paid for through Medicaid.

Otherwise, long-term care is paid with LTC Insurance or private funds or provided by family members. 

Here's how Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia approach government-funded in-home long-term care.

  • Canada faces a complex landscape. Responsibility for long-term care falls on provinces and territories, leading to a patchwork of programs with varying eligibility criteria, funding levels, and service availability. While most Canadians prioritize home care, wait times can be significant, prematurely pushing individuals toward institutional care. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reported in 2021 that one in ten Canadians wait over 35 days for needed home care services. Efforts are underway to improve accessibility, but challenges remain. Private Long-Term Care Insurance does exist in Canada, but many Canadians think the government pays for everything. 
  • The United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) traditionally covered some in-home care needs, but funding constraints have led to increased reliance on means-tested services. This means individuals contribute financially based on their income and assets. Scotland, however, deviates from this model, offering free personal care to all older adults living at home, regardless of financial situation. This highlights ongoing debates within the U.K. about the balance between user contributions and universal access. Insurers have ceased offering Long-Term Care Insurance in the U.K.
  • Australia presents a different model. The Aged Care Act 1994 establishes a national framework for aged care, promoting consistency across the country. Government funding supports a range of in-home services, including personal care, nursing, and social support. Additionally, Australia has a means-tested co-payment system with a lifetime cap on out-of-pocket expenses for care recipients. This approach aims to balance affordability with ensuring quality care. There is no private insurer offering Long-Term Care Insurance in Australia. 

No matter what country you live in, one thing is in common, the family often must step in and provide care because, again, what choice do they have?

It is common for caregivers to feel exhausted, sad, and frustrated. The stress of caregiving responsibilities can jeopardize their health. During caregiving, it's easy to become so engrossed in their duties that you overlook their impact on your health and well-being. If you are a caregiver, you understand the challenges firsthand. If not, you may face this issue in the future. 

The late former U.S. First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, understood the problem. 

There are only four kinds of people in the world — those that have been caregivers, those that are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.

Your role as a caregiver doesn't relieve you of your other responsibilities. You might have a career, a spouse, and children of your own. If you're not currently a caregiver, it might be hard to understand; however, those who are caregivers confront this stress daily.

Caregiver stress can lead you to lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. Some family caregivers neglect their health or turn to drug or alcohol misuse. You might also experience burnout or significant weight fluctuations. Therefore, it's crucial to prioritize your health and wellness, as it's the only way to better care for your patients. Below, we discuss six health and wellness tips for caregivers.

There are several things family caregivers can do to improve their health and well-being. Doing so will improve their lives and strengthen their ability to provide quality care for their loved ones.

Family Caregivers Should Consider Respite Care

Respite care allows you to take regular, short-term breaks from your caregiving duties to recharge and restore balance in your life. It lets you rest while your loved one benefits from a safe, supportive setting with dedicated care. Seeking respite care offers multiple rewards, including:

  • Allowing time to rest and recuperate: Respite care for caregivers lets you get the short-term rest you need to recover and maintain your health and well-being.
  • Relieving stress and pressure: Failure to take a break from your caregiving duties results in stress and pressure build-up that could impact your patience and capability to provide the best care possible. With respite care services from a trusted professional team like this respite care Gold Coast, you can ensure your loved one gets continuous, customized care. This helps you create an excellent work-life balance, relieving you of the pressure and stress that come with caregiving.
  • Preventing social isolation: Juggling between caregiving responsibilities and other commitments can make you feel isolated. Respite care allows you to spend time with your family and friends, which is good for your mental well-being

In the U.S. you can find respite care and other long-term care services with the LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory.


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Join Caregiver Support Groups

Caregiver support groups usually provide a platform where caregivers can discuss their issues, listen to one another, and seek help. These groups offer several benefits to caregivers, such as:

  • Emotional support: Considering how overwhelming and stressful caregiving can be, confiding in others with the same experiences can be calming. This is because support groups provide a healthy outlet for a caregiver's emotions, which is a vital resource in helping build healthy coping skills while avoiding burnout
  • Better quality of life: When feeling tired, stressed, and overwhelmed, there's a high risk of experiencing caregiver burnout, impacting your capacity to care for others. Joining a support group helps improve your emotional and mental health, making it easier to care for others
  • Reduced social isolation: The fact that caregiving demands so much of your time may cause you to sacrifice your social connections, making you feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. Support groups enable you to connect and socialize with other caregivers, making it easier to manage stress and anxiety.

Stay Physically Active/Exercise

Fatigue and exhaustion from long hours and days of caregiving duties can make it hard to stay physically active. Exercising boosts your health and well-being and makes you a better caregiver. It lets you work your muscular and cardiovascular systems, increasing stamina and improving the management of a position as demanding as a caregiver's.

Physical activity can help reduce stress hormones, enabling you to handle stressful situations better. It helps boost your energy levels, which is key in helping you keep up with your caregiving responsibilities. Besides improving and maintaining your physical strength, staying physically active reduces the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease and helps guard your mental health.

Go for Regular Health Checkups

Statistics suggest that caregiving often results in high levels of stress and depression, which may cause harmful behaviors like alcohol and substance abuse. Mental health issues plus the physical strain that comes with caregiving increase the risk of severe physical health outcomes. 

This is where routine medical checks come in. Regular health checkups are a form of preventive care that may involve tests, screenings, and counseling to prevent health problems. It can also include mental healthcare, vaccinations, and physical assessments. Being proactive with your health is a great way to take care of yourself because it reduces the possibility of health problems. It also implies that you'll be able to care for your loved ones better.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation can cause caregivers to experience burnout and other problems like increased stress levels. It also raises the risk of insomnia and other sleep disorders. As a caregiver, getting adequate sleep offers you the following benefits: 

  • Low-stress levels: Caregiving can be quite stressful, and stress can result in severe health issues like hypertension and increased possibility of cardiovascular problems. Getting sufficient sleep reduces stress and the risk of diseases associated with it
  • Curbs junk food cravings: The lack of sleep can contribute to overeating and comfort food cravings. After a night of poor sleep, hunger-controlling hormones don't work as they should, triggering junk food cravings. Continuous sleep deprivation can lead to the consumption of excess calories, causing weight gain. Getting sufficient sleep helps curb food cravings, which is key to maintaining a healthy weight
  • Improved overall health: Sleep deficiency is connected to several health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, stroke, and more. Getting adequate sleep reduces the risk of these health issues, improving overall caregiver health.

Eat Healthy

Since caregiving is a time-consuming and demanding responsibility, it makes it difficult for caregivers to prioritize their health and well-being, including nutrition and diet. As a busy caregiver, you may not have enough time to shop for groceries and prepare healthy meals, leading to consuming processed or unhealthy foods. In addition, the emotional toll and stress associated with caregiving can result in poor eating habits, like overeating.

A nutritious and balanced diet is vital for your health and wellness as a caregiver. It provides the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins the body requires to function optimally. Besides boosting your energy levels, a healthy, well-balanced diet helps enhance cognitive function, mood, and overall quality of life. 

The fact that caregiving may not leave you with enough time to grocery shop and plan your meals shouldn't keep you from eating healthy. Consider:

  • Planning healthy, well-balanced meals in advance helps you remain organized 
  • Practicing batch cooking
  • Utilizing healthy, convenience foods like canned beans, frozen vegetables, and more

Don't Ignore Yourself

Caregiving can be overwhelming and stressful, making it hard to focus on your health and wellness as a caregiver. However, implementing these health and wellness tips for caregivers can be helpful.  

Being prepared for the consequences of aging will make the process of aging easier for everyone in the family. If you are a caregiver, you cannot deny the reality that you, yourself, may need care in the future. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that if you reach age 65, your chance of needing long-term care services is 56%. The cost of care in the United States and worldwide is high and getting more expensive. 

If you live in the U.S., LTC Insurance should be part of your retirement plan. If you live elsewhere, understanding the consequences of aging is essential, and discussing your preferences with loved ones is critical no matter where you live. 

Aging is a reality. Being a caregiver for a loved one is difficult and physically and emotionally demanding. Don't ignore these realities; if you are now a caregiver, don't ignore yourself. 

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About the Author

Linda Kople is a freelance writer with a personal family history in long-term care. She specializes in aging-related topics such as caregiving, health, and retirement planning. Her experiences and interests drive her to explore and write about the various aspects of aging and health issues.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

Aging is inevitable, and ignoring its implications can significantly affect your health, well-being, and financial security, ultimately burdening your family. The need for long-term care increases with age, reaching 56% for those who reach age 65. Planning with Long-Term Care Insurance can relieve your family of this potential burden.

When you require assistance with daily living activities, ongoing medical services, or supervision due to memory loss, you seek a professional and compassionate caregiver to support you at home. When you need a long-term care community or facility, you would prefer a high-quality establishment that meets your needs in a welcoming and safe environment.

Quality care is costly, and health insurance, including Medicare, typically covers only short-term skilled care. Being proactive about your health and retirement planning can be advantageous. Incorporating Long-Term Care Insurance into your planning ensures access to quality care when needed, protects your retirement savings, and alleviates stress on your family.

Long-Term Care Insurance provides guaranteed tax-free benefits that can be used for the care of your choice, including at-home care. These benefits allow you to maintain control and independence over your care and living situation, enhancing your ability to live independently with the support you need.

Long-Term Care Insurance plays a vital role in retirement planning, offering an affordable way to maintain independence and financial security while supporting family caregivers' well-being.

Most people add an LTC policy in their 40s or 50s, but affordable options can be found in their 60s or older if they are still in reasonably good health. 

LTC Specialists Save You Money

LTC Insurance costs vary dramatically. Be sure to find an experienced, independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to assist you in shopping for and designing an LTC policy. 

The top LTC specialists will represent the top-rated companies so they can provide accurate quotes from all the top companies offering these long-term care products.

LTC Insurance specialists make finding and applying for a policy easier. Be sure to find a specialist who understands federal and state LTC Insurance guidelines, including tax incentives and the Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership Program.

A Few Clicks Away from Finding Quality Care for Loved One

With over 80,000 listings nationwide, the LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory is a free and comprehensive tool offering many options for long-term care services. The directory makes it effortless to explore qualifications and services. 

If you're a care provider, you can claim your free listing or upgrade to enhance visibility through the LTC News Directory Business Portal.  

LTC NEWS offers assistance in processing claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. Partnering with Amada Senior Care, a renowned in-home healthcare agency, LTC NEWS ensures that you and your loved ones receive top-notch care without worrying about securing policy benefits. There is no cost or obligation for this service.

Experience peace of mind knowing you can access quality care services when you need them most - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

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