Helpful embraces all matters of your mental health and well-being
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC, 2021), 70% of family caregivers experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. That’s 7 out of 10 caregivers. And as we know, anxiety and depression are underreported
Depression is caused by repeatedly feeling ineffective or that you’ve failed, and/or continuously feeling that you and your efforts are unacknowledged and underappreciated.
Anxiousness is caused by a lack of information about future events, and a subsequent feeling of lack of control over what happens next.
The workload associated with caregiving, coupled with these symptoms, are collectively referred to as “caregiver burden”, “caregiver stress”, or “caregiver burnout.”
It feels lonely but you are not alone
As a caregiver, you don’t need another resource to remind you how hard it is to care for someone. Everyone, especially you, knows caregiving is difficult. What you may not know, however, is that as lonely as it sometimes feels, you are not alone.
More than 1 in 4 American adults (> 25%) are providing daily needs and care support (AARP, 2020).
In the last 5 years, the number of family caregivers in the U.S. grew by 9.3 million and will continue to grow in the next 5 years by twice that (AARP, 2021).
About 38 million caregivers provide an average of 18 care hours per week (that’s 36 billion total hours of care) (AARP, 2023).
Family caregivers provide $600 billion in unpaid care across the U.S. (AARP, 2023).
We want you to be aware of your mental health and rather than another unhelpful article on what you should be doing, filled with stuff that’s easier said than done… Stuff like, “take time out for yourself”, or “eat right in a hurry”, or “meet other caregivers like you”, and so forth… We feel the key to combating caregiver burden and maintaining your well-being is to just be prepared.
To take care of yourself, prepare yourself
Helpful is specifically designed to make preparation easy for you.
The essential element to maintaining control, staying organized, regaining time, and eliminating symptoms of anxiety and depression is anticipation. So many of us, even seasoned caregivers, lack anticipation, but it is anticipation that allows us to work smarter, not harder - as the saying goes.
Anticipation, for our purposes, is the application of knowledge and understanding to the act of looking forward. So, with that, educating and informing yourself is where you start!
Outlined here are the steps to master the art of anticipation.
Gain a thorough understanding of your loved one’s medical conditions and health status, as well as their insurance plan. Knowing how best to help your loved one, and maybe more importantly when, begins with understanding their conditions - more precisely how their conditions will progress - and familiarizing yourself with how they function today. Really understanding these things serves as a guide for where they will be and what they will need tomorrow (and into the future). All this enables you to anticipate changes and needs, getting ahead of them rather than reacting to them. See also: Take Care of Yourself and Prepare Yourself, Understand Medical (1 min read).
Gain deeper insight into your loved one’s needs, wants, and expectations. Your loved one may not always know their plans from day to day, but they do have some general ideas on what they want their life to be like and they have expectations about how things should go. It’s important you find out about these ideas and expectations. All this allows you to anticipate possible futures and outcomes, so you can start putting things in place now to support your loved one in achieving their long-term vision. How they view themselves and the management of their health conditions is especially important because their attitude on this is reflective of their present and future self-care effort and indicative of their ability to remain independent. See also: Take Care of Yourself and Prepare Yourself, Deeper Insight (1 min read).
Have crucial conversations about future planning, including difficult subjects like disability and death. Gaining a deeper insight into your loved one’s needs, wants, and expectations must include a discussion about end-of-life issues. Even those who have “lived a good life” and don’t fear death may have trouble talking about it. You may have trouble talking about it, as well. But finding a way to approach it is necessary, and oftentimes approaching it just very matter of factly is best. Anticipate decisions that need to be made in the event of disability or dying/death and start making as many as are reasonable now. There are professionals available for consultation who can introduce the topics that should be covered and moderate the discussion, such as elder attorneys and certified life planners or senior advisors. Your loved one’s healthcare team can also help with some of it. See also: Take Care of Yourself and Prepare Yourself, Crucial Conversations (2 min read).
Finalize future plans. Take the results of those crucial conversations and formalize them with legal and financial documentation. Use those documents to inform other family members of the decisions made. Provide these documents to your loved one’s attorney, primary care physician, financial advisor, appropriate family members, and clergy (if desired). This actually removes anticipation, which is a good thing here, because the actions desired and required have already been decided. See also: Take Care of Yourself and Prepare Yourself, Finalize Future Plans (1 min read).
Determine what happens when your loved one needs help. Lastly, we get down to activities of daily living and the practical tasks involved in helping your loved one remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. If and when your loved one can no longer do some (or many) of the things they used to be able to do - such as home maintenance, household chores, errands, personal care, even medical needs - how will they be supported? What are their preferences? This will help you anticipate who will be involved and what assistance they should provide. See also: Take Care of Yourself and Prepare Yourself, Help Needed (1 min read).
Assisting your loved one inevitably involves learning to do things you have not done before, like helping them bathe, toilet, and dress. You may need to navigate uncharted waters like incontinence or problems with swallowing. It may even involve your learning how to perform some medical tasks, should they need help with medication administration or skin/wound care.
These tasks are when we pick up with “how-to” over “know-how” and anticipation becomes more moment-to-moment and hands-on. Anticipation examples?... Ensuring that the bathroom is warm and placing all the supplies you’ll need to assist your loved one with bathing within grabbing distance, including extra towels or a bathrobe to combat chill while drying off.
Helpful provides an abundance of how-to content on challenges faced as a caregiver, acute and chronic illnesses, communication and planning with providers, household management, hands-on skills, and more.
We invite you to sign up for a seamless experience in bringing your loved one’s benefits, medical records, and informative content together to elevate the efficiency and effectiveness of your care delivery - returning not only your peace of mind but your minutes and moments, as well.
No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician; or any direct legal advice you receive from your lawyer or other qualified legal professionals; or direct advice from a licensed insurance broker or other qualified plan-payer professional.