Ask us about our jobs and we will go on and on about our industry, company, and our latest highly-deserved promotion. Ask us about our investments and we’ll brag about where we put our money and why it’s a winning strategy. But ask us about our families, and we immediately enter the realm of “polite company.”
Oh everyone’s doing great! The kids are doing well in school. We’re planning our next family getaway. Couldn’t be better. Can’t complain.
Reality might be slightly different.
Your son was suspended for fighting last week. Your daughter failed her spelling test. And that “getaway?” You’re going to your mom’s house again this weekend to take care of her because she has dementia.
We’re silent about this aspect of our lives—that our loved ones are ill—even with people closest to us who genuinely want to help. November is National Family Caregivers Month and it is imperative to shine a light on this silent and widespread situation. Simply stated, family challenges are private and not exactly social networking “I just got a promotion” or “check me out on my vacation” material.
Remaining silent by not sharing the challenge of caring for loved ones when they’re sick can really hurt you—physically, mentally, and financially.
According to data published by the Family Caregiving Alliance, caregiving has substantial impact on the overall lifestyle of the caregiver.
Physically – The need for caregivers to take care of themselves goes under-researched, but some data has been out there for some time.
- 11% of family caregivers report that caregiving has caused their physical health to deteriorate.(1)
- Negative effects of caregiving are greatest for those aged 18-29, followed by 30 to 40 year olds. Caregivers who work full-time say they suffer from poorer physical health than their non-caregiving counterparts. 16% of caregivers working full-time have a Physical Health Index (PHI) score of 77.4%, which is significantly lower than 83.0% for non-caregivers (2)
Mentally – The mental health of caregivers is also under-researched and has perhaps the most important health impact.
- 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with about a quarter to half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression.(3)
Financially – There’s a real cost associated with caregiving. Between missing work, declining job performance, and taking a leave of absence, income can fall substantially without having strong support.
- Among working caregivers caring for a family member or friend, 69% report having to rearrange their work schedule, decrease their hours or take an unpaid leave in order to meet their caregiving responsibilities.(4)
- A reported 37% of caregivers quit their jobs or reduced their work hours to care for someone 50+ in 2007.(5)
- Caregivers overall reported missing an average of 6.6 workdays per year. Approximately 17% of full-time workers missed 126 million workdays each year. 36% of caregivers missed 1-5 days per year while 30% reported missing 6 or more days in the past year.(6)
The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to share your caregiving responsibilities. There are resources and technology available to reduce the burden. Investing your time in discovering what combination of services (and help from family and friends) can help in your situation will pay dividends–perhaps literally.
So we’re clear—silence isn’t golden as the saying goes. In fact, when it comes to caregiving, silence is a tin-plated lump of coal. Share your situation with close family and friends who genuinely want to help. Responsibility can be shared. You don’t do everything by yourself at work. Why do so when taking care of loved ones?
Break the silence. Share this article. It won’t cost you anything—and may just save two lives.
About David S. Williams III
David S. Williams III is a social entrepreneur and leading innovator in consumer digital health. David is Founder & CEO of Care3, a secure messaging app built specifically for the needs of family caregivers and care advocates. Care3 is David’s fourth venture in the online and mobile consumer health space. Download Care3 on the iTunes App Store.
Sources (from Selected Caregiver Statistics, National Center on Caregiving)