According to the Pennsylvania Care Planning Council, caregivers often don’t realize when they are in over their heads, or at a breaking point.
The PCPC states a typical pattern with an overloaded caregiver may unfold as follows:
> 1 to 18 months – the caregiver is confident, has everything under control and is coping well. Other friends and family are lending support.
>20 to 36 months – the caregiver may be taking medication to sleep and control mood swings. Outside help dwindles away and except for trips to the store or doctor, the caregiver has severed most social contacts. The caregiver feels alone and helpless.
>38 to 50 months – Besides needing tranquilizers or antidepressants, the caregiver’s physical health is beginning to deteriorate. Lack of focus and sheer fatigue cloud judgment and the caregiver is often unable to make rational decisions or ask for help.
The PCPC states it is often at this final stage that help may be needed finding other solutions for care including respite care, hiring home health aides or putting the disabled loved one in a facility.
Without intervention, the caregiver may become a candidate for long term care as well.
During the holidays, caregivers may feel even more stress planning, shopping and participating in holiday activities. The PCPC states this is a perfect time for family and friends to step up and give the gift of respite time and caregiving help.
An article in “Today’s Caregiver” states about one in four caregivers of people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, provide 40 hours a week or more of care, and would appreciate the gift of cleaning the house, preparing a meal, mowing the lawn, or shoveling the driveway, that allow the caregiver time off to focus on his or her needs.
Another idea is to hire professionals such as a financial planner, reverse mortgage specialist, or care manager to guide the patient and caregiver through long term care issues.