by Carol Cummings, BSN, RN
04 December 2018

The act of caring for another is one of life’s most challenging and rewarding experiences. The caregiver journey starts for many after the recognition of a loved one’s physical or mental decline. For others, it begins with a medical diagnosis or a trip to the hospital. Many people start down this path feeling overwhelmed by the realization that they must change their own lives in order to assist another. There’s medication and diet to manage, new schedules to make, financial considerations, home modifications and possibly even career changes to consider. Approximately 18 million people in the United States act as informal or unpaid caregivers to older adults, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As the population of seniors rapidly grows, the number of at-home caregivers also increases. Every year, thousands of Americans begin the caregiver journey. The majority of them are the grown children of older adults followed closely by spouses. 

The majority of informal caregivers spend between 61 and 127 hours per month providing care for a loved one, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Many experience what we call symptoms of caregiver stress. These symptoms can include denial about the diagnosis, social withdrawal, exhaustion, depression and health problems. Some family members feel anger towards the person they are caring for and anxiety about what to do if things get worse. Nearly half of all informal caregivers say they find it difficult to balance work and caregiving, according to AARP. It can be a challenging situation for even the most stalwart of souls.

These caregivers need support along each stage of their journey, something Brookdale Senior Living understands. We know the road that lies ahead can seem lonely, and perhaps unpassable, but so many people have gone down it before. We believe that from caring comes courage. I truly admire anyone who makes the sacrifice to care for another. It’s a testament to the love and devotion you have for that person.

As part of our ongoing Optimum Life Continuing Education series for healthcare professionals, we’re offering the session Caregiving: Supporting the Journey during the month of December. This session is led by myself and Kim Estes Elliot, Brookdale’s senior vice president of clinical services. This pre-recorded program provides 1.0 CE credit (one hour) for nurses, social workers, case managers and nursing home administrators. If you are interested in future Optimum Life Continuing Education topics and want to register and attend for professional credit, visit the Continuing Education page on our website. Those who complete our Caregiving: Supporting the Journey course will be able to:

  • Articulate the demographics of caregivers in the U.S.
  • Identify the impact of stress for caregivers
  • Discuss the stages of the caregiver journey and tools for evaluating caregiver stress
  • List the top 10 tools for caregivers

I believe this course will help many medical professionals understand the dynamics of caregiving and how best to support those who provide care for a loved one. Kim and I will provide you with tools to measure the strain a caregiver is under and identify the four stages every caregiver goes through. This course will give you a clear understanding of the role informal caregivers play and provide you with practical tools to support them. I hope you’ll explore the journey of caregiving with us.

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