10 Reasons Why Caregiving Stress Is an Epidemic


10 Reasons Why Caregiving Stress Is an Epidemic

rock-288776_640Physicians and health care professionals provide once-in-awhile care. We provide all-the-time care. We care for a family member or friend with a chronic illness, disease, injury or frailty.

We care at night, on weekends, on holidays. We care every day. We are the health care system.

We change wound care dressings, provide personal care, perform tasks usually done by nurses, dispense medications, monitor health, organize activities, ensure our caree's safety to the best of our abilities, manage difficult behaviors because of a caree's disease process, prepare special meals, keep health care professionals up-to-date, research options, advocate for the best possible care, make difficult decisions, shop for the the best-priced supplies, give the rides, first notice the problems, often suggest the solutions to health care professionals and keep the faith.

And, we do our best to keep up with our careers, our families, our friends and the activities we love.

It's stressful because so much rests on our shoulders. With an estimated 44 million* providing care for a family member in the U.S., our caregiving stress is an epidemic in our communities. Here's 10 reasons why:

1. We do great work without receiving the reimbursement, support, help, or assistance we need.
According to AARP Public Policy Institute, the estimated economic value of our unpaid contributions was approximately $470 billion in 2013, up from an estimated $450 billion in 2009. (The math: In 2013, about 40 million family caregivers in the United States provided an estimated 37 billion hours of care to an adult with limitations in daily activities.)

2. We go it alone.
45% of survey respondents in our 2015 Annual Family Caregiver Survey say they receive no help from family members. 47% say they do not have a back-up to provide care in their absence if they become ill, have an emergency or want to take a vacation. (We'll share results of our annual caregiving survey in a free webinar which airs October 28 at Noon ET (11 a.m. CT, 9 a.m. PT).)

3. We all feel it.
Only 5% of survey respondents in our 2015 Annual Family Caregiver Survey say caregiving is not stressful. That could mean we have 40 million stressed-out family caregivers in our country.

4. It's constant.
31% of survey respondents in our 2015 Annual Family Caregiver Survey say they have between two and four hours of time for themselves each week. That's only about 30 minutes each day of time we can call our own.

5. We can't find what we need in our communities to help us cope.
We have no national program to help all family caregivers, regardless of their caree's age or primary diagnosis. Most help for family caregivers today hinges on the age of caree or is specific to a disease, like Alzheimer's. If your caree is under 60 years of age, you really can struggle to get help and support.

6. We put our wellness on hold.
In our recent poll, What's Been Disrupted for You, survey respondents said their caregiving responsibilities disrupt their emotional well-being.

7. It costs businesses.
Individuals who juggle their career and caregiving responsibilities are more likely to report health problems like depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, according to the MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs. These health problems cost employers an estimated average additional health care cost of 8% per year, or $13.4 billion annually.

8. We can't get a break.
Research from a report, Women and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Caregiver’s Crisis, found that, while three quarters of survey respondents feel capable of providing care, 49% feel overwhelmed, 36% report depression, and 65% have not had a vacation in the past year.

9. We're conflicted about how to manage caregiving within the context of our life.
62% of respondents to our First Annual Survey of Working Family Caregivers say they've struggled with the question, Should I quit my job because of my caregiving responsibilities? We can't be two places at the same time. When we work and provide care, we often must.

10. Caregiving costs us.
Americans who provide care for their aging parents lose an estimated three trillion dollars in wages, pension and Social Security benefits when they take time off to do so, according to “The MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers: Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents.”

We believe family caregiver stress is the epidemic in our communities. Because it’s an epidemic, we want the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track family caregiver stress and its source. We then can intervene to successfully and effectively improve the days of family caregivers.

You can help make it happen:

  • Sign our petition for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track family caregiver stress and its source.

  • Join me for our second chat on Twitter on Friday, Nov. 20, at 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. CT, Noon PT). During our hour-long chat, we’ll talk about family caregiver stress and ask the CDC to track our stress. To join our chat, go to tweetchat.com, log into your Twitter account and follow our hashtag: #trackstress. You also can tag the CDC on your tweets during our chat; use @cdcgov and and @DrFriedenCDC, the Twitter account for Dr. Tom Frieden, Executive Director, CDC.

* According to the research release in June 2015 by National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months.

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I don't like to admit it very often, but yes, I experience caregiver stress. So, thank you, Denise for articulating this common experience and pushing it onto the radar!