Becoming a caregiver is both predictable and unexpected. It’s something you may have foreseen a future need for (as is often the case with parents or grandparents), but couldn’t have been fully ready for it when the time came. Sometimes it comes completely out of nowhere – a stroke, injury, or diagnosis creates a sudden and immediate need for care. Either way, it creates a new role for you and a sudden need to reshuffle the balance of life. As you learn, adjust, and start to cope with the reality and “new normal” of the situation, it’s important to remember the IRS of Caregiving: Information, Respite, and Support.
In a recent and informative podcast episode, the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) explored the IRS of Caregiving. Check it out by clicking here. To add context to this podcast episode, we’ve provided the below statistics and information.
The IRS of Caregiving: “I” is for Information
When starting as a new caregiver, you will have a lot of questions. Things like, “What’s an advanced directive?” “Is this symptom an emergency?” or “How do I handle incontinence?”
If you’re like most family caregivers, you may feel that answers to those questions are hard to come by. This is a well-documented problem unpaid family caregivers face. This is why information needs to be a major focus of the early days of caregiving.
How family caregivers feel about access to/confidence in available information:
- Family caregivers feel “unprepared to provide care, [that they] have inadequate knowledge to deliver proper care, and [that they] receive little guidance from the formal health care providers.” (Source: NIH.gov)
- They feel “unprepared for the complex medical and nursing tasks they were expected to perform at home for their family member.” (Source: New England Journal of Medicine)
- Family caregivers feel that they don’t know when or how to use available government, community, and other resources. (Source: NIH.gov)
The IRS of Caregiving: “R” is for Respite
As a new caregiver, it can be difficult to take time away. Often family caregivers feel guilty leaving their loved one’s side to care for themselves. But this mentality can easily lead to anxiety, depression, compassion fatigue, and burnout.
Here are some statistics to create a more holistic view of caregiving’s demands:
- 23% of caregivers report feeling unable to care for their own health.
- Caregiving is usually not short-term. It typically extends for years (according to growing data by the MIT Age Lab). It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and should be treated accordingly.
- Almost all caregivers have additional responsibilities outside of care (such as children, work, or personal health concerns as a few examples).
- Caregiving is often progressive, meaning the demands evolve and increase over time.
The IRS of Caregiving: “S” is for Support
It’s important for caregivers to find and accept the help that is available to them. You can’t and don’t need to do it alone.
Here are some places to find support:
- Friends and family who offer to help.
- Community groups such as churches and other local organizations (there are often ailment-specific organizations with resources dedicated to helping you through your experience).
- Resource centers (such as a local Caregiver Resource Center near you).
- Support groups (in-person and online).
For more in-depth information and an informative discussion on the IRS of Caregiving, check out the podcast episode linked for you here.Share this post: