Sunday, May 2, 2010

Difficulties Facing Stressed & Overwhelmed Family Caregivers

by Anne Pagnoni

Many family caregivers find themselves unprepared for the physical and emotional demands of caring for a loved one and quickly become stressed and overloaded. When this occurs many caregivers find themselves unable to provide the level of care necessary to nurture their loved one at home.

Situation One: The care receiver lives with the care provider
If the caregiver is working outside of the home or has a very active social calendar, then the care receiver often finds him or herself at home alone for the greater part of the day. As a result the care receiver quite often becomes imprisoned by the home environment due to functional limitation. Receiving little or no social stimulus, the care recipient spends day after day sleeping and watching television. Physical exercise consists of moving to or from the bathroom. The care receiver typically will not prepare a meal. Many times drinking and eating are deliberately avoided to lessen trips to the bathroom. When the care receiver lacks adequate food and fluid intake the result is malnutrition and dehydration both of which result in poor mental reasoning and stupor; hence, the cycle of sleeping and television watching continues.

Solution: A home health aide is a great option if you wish to have your loved one remain in your home while being properly care for during your daily absences. In addition to a home health aide, consider having your loved one attend an adult day care center either daily or several times per week. An assisted living community is another viable option if you feel that your home is no longer an appropriate setting for your loved one.

Situation Two: The care receiver lives alone
Care recipients who live alone can be guilty of self-neglect. Self-neglect is when the care recipient is not interested or is incapable of taking care of his or her own needs. Examples of self-neglect include not eating or drinking enough; not tending to personal hygiene including bathing and grooming; allowing garbage to accumulate within the home; having unattended pets, which urinate and defecate in living spaces; and refusing assistance. When a caregiver is providing care to a care recipient who lives alone, it is imperative that the caregiver work to provide a stimulating environment for the care receiver. Self-neglect with or without a caregiver is a form of elder abuse and in some states it is required by law that its existence be reported. A caregiver allowing self-neglect to happen could be criminally charged.

Solution: A home health aide can assist your loved one with meal preparation, bathing, dressing, grooming, and housekeeping. Many live-in caregivers will tend to family pets. For social interaction have your loved one attend an adult day care center or senior center. Seek out the services of a Geriatric Care Manager for guidance on how to make your loved one safe at home.

Situation Three: Failure to bring in outside help
The biggest mistake made by caregivers is not asking for help. The reasons for this vary. Sometimes the caregiver is a child, who is a long distance caregiver, and doesn't fully appreciate the severity of the situation. Other times money can be the big motivator. Stressed and overwhelmed caregivers become so involved with their loved one that they isolate themselves from others. This isolation makes them reluctant to contact those who can help. Regardless of the cause, failure to ask for help or to hire help can have dire consequences on the welfare of the care recipient and the caregiver.

Solution: Ask for help!! Talk to a local home care agency about available options. While you may think that home care services aren't affordable, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised. Contact your local area agency on aging. If you are a long distance caregiver, then enlist the services of a Geriatric Care Manager so that there is someone locally managing your loved one's care.

If you are the primary caregiver for another individual, then please do not allow yourself and your loved one to fall into one of the situations described above. Ask for help. Be involved. Know your options.

Please direct comments or questions on this post to For more information on Home Care Assistance, please visit us at or call 1-866-4-LIVEIN.

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