What are the Demographics and Frustrations of Caregivers and Referral Doctors of People with Severe Conditions or Disabilities?

The typical family caregiver is a 47-year-old woman caring for a 69-year-old mother or relative who does not live with her. They spend on average about 20 hours per week helping their relatives, which usually makes it harder for caregivers to balance this with their other duties like work and family. Because of the increased burden, caregiving families have a 15% lower median income than non-caregiving families. This usually leads caregivers to become more stressed and depressed, especially when they are watching a member of their family slowly succumb to an incurable disease. The stress usually also bleeds out into their work, as the majority of caregivers have reported that being a caregiver has forced them to miss out on work, be late, or even spend vacation and sick days in the company of the person they are tasked of taking care.

Demographics of caregivers in the U.S.

  • The typical family caregiver is a 47-year-old woman caring for a widowed 69-year-old mother or relative who does not live with her. However, it is important to note that men have become more involved in caregiving in recent years, especially when it comes to their own family members and relatives.
  • The majority of family caregivers (36%) care for a parent or a loved one over 50 years old. Only about 14% of family caregivers care for special needs children.
  • Caregivers are also usually married with kids and employed.
  • The average time spent on caregiving for loved ones is about 20 hours per week but about 13% of caregivers still spend more than 40 hours per week caregiving.
  • Hispanic and African-American caregivers spend, on average, more time (about 30 hours a week) on care giving duties, than other ethnicities.
  • Unfortunately, a big majority of caregivers are also struggling financially because of the out-of-pocket burden created by caregiving.
  • Women are most affected in that matter as they are “2.5 times more likely than non-caregivers to live in poverty and five times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).”
  • Overall, caregiving families have a 15% lower median income than non-caregiving families.
  • The majority of caregivers also usually have to use most or the entirety of their savings, paying an average of $10,400 out of their pocket every year.

Pain points and challenges for caregivers

1. Increased stress and poorer health

  • Caregiving is quite demanding both physically and mentally, which is why a lot of family caregivers are often very stressed.
  • Over 50% of caregivers have reported that assisting a friend or family member has increased their stress levels to the point where it has had a negative effect on their overall health and well-being.
  • As a result, roughly 70% of family caregivers exhibit symptoms of depression.
  • A big part of their problems are related to “patient care and symptom management, inadequate social support, communication issues, and financial concerns.”
  • Stress problems usually lead to burnout and emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.
  • As a result, some caregivers, about 14%, have admitted that watching the pain and suffering of their loved ones has caused them to entertain suicidal thoughts.
  • As caregiving is focused on taking care of someone else for a prolonged time, the best way to cope with the stress is to have some planned alone time.
  • People have also noted that attending social groups for caregiver also helps because they do not feel so alone in their burden.

2. Difficulty with work

  • Juggling work and caregiving can be very challenging, especially for people that are taking care of relatives that are suffering from chronic or more severe conditions.
  • A big majority of caregivers in the US (over 70%) have noted that they had to miss time from work to care for a family member.
  • Another 46% have noted that they have had to use vacation time or sick leave to care for a family member.
  • About 20% of caregivers have reported that they are constantly late for work, while 9% have lost their job because of their responsibilities as a caregiver.
  • As it is extremely difficult to find the right balance, some caregivers choose to enroll their loved ones, especially if they are critically ill, to a respite center that can provide better care and allow the caregiver some freedom.
  • It is also beneficial for caregivers to check whether the people they are taking care of can qualify for disability to ease some of their financial burden.

Reasons for doctors to refer patients to respite centers

1. Experiencing serious health issues

  • One of the major reasons why doctors would refer patients to a respite or specialized care is if the patient has suffered from a major life-threatening condition like a heart attack or stroke.
  • Conditions like that usually have some serious consequences on the patient and can affect their ability to speak, eat, and walk.
  • As such, doctors usually feel that specialized care can help patients survive any subsequent complications.
  • As many respite care providers have caregivers who specialize in specific areas, such as stroke recovery, the chances of survival after such a sever incident increase a lot.
  • According to the CDC, patients that were spent time in a specialized care after a serious health condition were 53% less likely to experience any complications after the rehabilitation process.

2. Inability to properly heal old wounds or recurring conditions

  • Another big reason for doctors to suggest enrolling their patients to respite centers for specialized care is recurring health problems or the inability to properly heal old wounds.
  • In cases like that, rehabilitation is usually needed, as respite centers have the qualified personnel and experience to provide the best care possible for the patient.
  • Doctors usually suggest such centers because they increase the odds of a successful recovery.
  • Overall, respite care facilities allow family caregivers to take a break from their responsibilities while providing quality care for the patients in need.
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