An Aging Population Creates Caregiver Fatigue

An Aging Population Creates Caregiver Fatigue
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Caregiver fatigue, Alzheimer's

Caregivers of a certain age may remember the late comedienne Lucille Ball’s “Vitameatavegamin sketch. The famous, very funny redhead asks: “Are you tired, rundown, listless? Do you poop out at parties?”

For most caregivers, the answer is a resounding “yes,” perhaps especially for those who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. In the late stages of the cognitive disorder patients are stripped of the ability to complete the most basic tasks, which then fall to the caregiver.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic potion to quell the effects of long hours and multiple tasks that are both physically and emotionally draining.

Caregiver fatigue

The daily grind associated with caregiving can be overwhelming to even the sturdiest of individuals. However, there’s a phenomenon that further exacerbates the situation. People are living longer, which is a good thing of course, but it is also a factor in caregiver fatigue.

According to the Institute on Aging, the fastest growing age group of elders in the United States is 85 years or older. Imagine that by the year 2050, this senior age group will account for 5 percent of the U.S. population and 24 percent of the older adult population. As the age of the population rises, so does the need for long-term care. But caregivers are also aging.

In the United States, there are more than 50 million people who are 65 years of age or older. Caregivers fall within this age category. The average caregiver of someone 65 or older, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, is 63 years old. These retirement aged individuals spend long hours providing care.

The FCA also indicates that caregivers who are 75 years and older are dedicating more than 34 hours a week to caregiving. Obviously, caregivers have to be tired. The fact that they are aging, coupled with the number of hours they’re providing care, must contribute to caregiver fatigue.

Avoid caregiver burnout

Providing care for an aged parent, spouse, or child is an honorable choice, and most won’t regret their decision. However, caregivers must take a realistic approach to responsibilities. Your life is going to change. You and your loved one will adjust to a new normal, and this will involve letting go of some things you may cherish.

In the early days of caregiving, you don’t realize how heavy the responsibility will be. From personal experience, I know that attempting to continue living life in the same way is impossible.

I didn’t understand how constant caregiving would be, so I continued to try and do everything I’d always done. I was a living “Vitameatavegamin” sketch; “Tired, listless and pooping out at parties.” I also found myself breaking my word. That’s something I would never have done purposely.

I finally learned to wisely choose limited activities and to be careful making commitments. Eventually, I stopped volunteering, which at first was difficult and sad. Then I remembered that caregiving was my choice and, for this season of my life, it was my mission. It was as important as any outside commitment I could make. Maybe even more.

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