Informal caregivers are family, friends or volunteers who provide care for a loved one. Informal caregivers are rarely paid directly for their services. They may receive indirect payment through sharing a loved one’s income or assets. Although informal caregivers may provide services in a facility, in most cases they are providers of care in the home.
Caregivers face many challenges providing care at home. A wife caring for her husband may risk injury trying to move him or help him bathe or use the toilet. The financial impact is another challenge. The financial burden depends on who the informal caregiver is. For a spouse there is typically no financial cost since income and assets will be the same with or without a need for care. However, if a spouse offering informal care is employed and has to quit his or her job to provide care there is a significant impact on that family’s finances.
Despite the fact that there may be no significant financial impact on a spouse caring for the other spouse at home, there can be significant impact on the emotional and physical health of the caregiving spouse. Because of the strain and burnout often associated with caregiving, the healthy spouse may experience deteriorating health and eventually require long term care services as well. In some cases healthy spouses have succumbed drastically to the pressures of caregiving and died prematurely, well before their care recipients have died.
Another caregiver challenge may be the need of constant surveillance on a spouse with advanced dementia. Still another caregiving challenge could be a son living 500 miles from his disabled parents and constantly traveling to and from his home, trying to manage a job and his own family as well as taking care of the parents. Other challenges to home care may be caregivers who simply don’t have the time to watch over loved ones and those loved ones are sometimes neglected.
The problems with maintaining home care are mainly due to the inadequacies or lack of resources with informal caregivers, but they may also be caused by incompetent formal caregivers. These problems center on five issues:
- Inadequate care provided to a loved one
- Lack of training for caregivers
- Lack of social stimulation for care recipients
- Informal caregivers unable to handle the challenge
- Depression and physical ailments caused by caregiver burnout
In order to make sure home care is a feasible option and can be sustained for a period of time, caregivers must understand the problems outlined above, deal with them and correct them. This often involves bringing in so-called formal caregiver assistance such as care managers, home care companies or other long term care advisors. The responsibility for recognizing home care challenges and solving them is shouldered by the team of specialists and advisors that have been invited in to offer their help.