NEW YORK, NEW YORK August 19, 2014 The United Hospital Fund and AARP Public Policy Institute issued a report today with compelling new evidence that family caregivers who provide complex chronic care to people who also have cognitive and behavioral health conditions face particularly demanding challenges, including high levels of self-reported depression. As a result, a majority of them (61 percent) reported feeling stress “sometimes to always,” between their caregiving responsibilities and trying to meet other work or family obligations.

Adding to the challenge, people with cognitive and behavioral conditions (collectively termed in the report “challenging behaviors”) were generally sicker than other people requiring caregiving.  These persons needing care often had chronic physical health diagnoses—including cardiac disease, stroke/hypertension, musculoskeletal  problems (such as arthritis or osteoporosis), and diabetes—at higher rates than those without cognitive and behavioral conditions. Further illustrating the complexity, family caregivers of people with challenging behaviors often met with resistance from the person they were trying to help. Caregivers noted that “more cooperation from their family member” would make one key medical/nursing task—managing medications—easier.

take care elder symbol

 Can we all agree there’s nothing noble about being stuck and cornered into providing 24/7 long-term care for a parent, sibling or friend. Nothing inherently virtuous about helping them use a bedpan/urinal, or providing a steady hand to bring food to their mouth.

Yes, it can be satisfying on many levels, but –let’s face it — if professional assistance was both available AND affordable, wouldn’t you enjoy the option of respite for you and/or parent?  Or if you could sleep through the night, soundly for two nights in a row, wouldn’t that go a long way toward lifting the depression that has covertly attached itself, body and soul?  

Why is caregiving so difficult? 

These, of course, are rhetorical questions — we  know the answers, and those answers, in large part, are due to a lack of planning and confrontation avoidance during the years we are young and in good health.  We believe that somehow, magically, these things will “work themselves out” somehow, somewhere. But they don’t. And the consequences are often tragic.

I am in the process of securing a Congressional Resolution, setting aside Dec. 23rd as NATIONAL LONG TERM CARE INTERVENTION DAY.

It will encourage families to spend quality time together, talking about long term care options.

Hey, it’s a start.   Martin Bayne