Misconceptions of Caregiving
Caregiving in the Covid19 era has moved to the forefront of many family agendas. The stress of the pandemic provides many misconceptions, misinformation and distractions to family members who find themselves faced with providing care to their elder relatives. It is possible that the misinformation and stress could deter someone from assuming the responsibilities of being a caregiver. As is in my book, One Caregiver’s Journey, the first, and foremost, focus should be on safety and wellbeing of the individual requiring care. Here are some misconceptions I wish to dispense that will hopefully instill some confidence that caregiving is a positive experience and possible in light of all else we are contending with this year.
All caregivers are adults
This is not true. According to a 2018 report from the Alzheimer’s Association 1.4 million American children between the ages of ages 8 and 18 are either responsible for, or assisting an adult, with the care for an adult relative. You can be certain that the figure is much higher with the fallout of Covid-19. There are many scenarios to consider – loss of job or inability to pay rent or mortgage resulted in a family moving in with elder relatives. If the adults are fortunate enough to have a job and the children are being schooled remotely that child more than likely left home alone with the elder relatives, thus responsible for providing care. The pandemic most often leaves families little choice and children providing care, while a sad statement in and of itself, may be the only option.
Men are not caregivers
The statistics tell us that more than 75% of all caregivers are female. Today, however, more men are assuming the role of caregiving for their parents or a spouse. The financial hardships many are experiencing during the pandemic make it virtually impossible to find and hire qualified people to assist with care. The cost of a private facility coupled with the inability to visit loved ones in a facility during the pandemic takes private facility care out of reach and reality. Thus, more men are forced to learn and embrace the role of sole caregiver.
Caregivers primarily provide medical care
One of the most common misconceptions of caregiving is that family caregivers provide medical care. In the Covid-19 era, doctor visits are often through virtual technology and family members are being educated to perform certain routine medical tasks and to recognize when a medical emergency occurs. The basic truth is that many physicians expect family members to be trained and equipped to administer medications or monitor chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lupus, congestive heart failure, etc. with a goal of maintaining consistency in numbers and health. The caregiver relates information to medical professionals and receives instructions to properly monitor these conditions. The data shows that 95% of caregivers assist with routine daily living activities such as personal hygiene, bathing, dressing, and preparing meals while assuring the safety and wellbeing of their loved one.
Nursing homes provide the best care
The biggest misconception of caregiving is the best care is provided in a skilled nursing environment, or nursing home. That is not true, particularly in the era of Covid-19 when nursing homes are experiencing record numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths. Nursing homes are for-profit businesses, many are old with outdated equipment and insufficient staffing levels and inadequate financial resources to ensure residents are safe and receive proper care. Newer nursing care facilities charge upward from $9,000 monthly for a semi-private room, have an equal number of Covid-19 cases and deaths and the cost is out of the reach of most families. Like older facilities, newer facilities are also understaffed, and the care being provided is less than optimal. In other words, you will not get what you’re paying for in any facility where everyone is suffering from Covid-19 fatigue.
As mentioned in my book, my cousin and I visited 40 facilities when searching for an assisted living facility for our aunt before finding the right one. If you are fortunate enough to gain access to a facility during the pandemic, follow my sage advice to let your nose and eyes be the judge. If the facility smells or there are no smiles on the residents’ faces – leave. And I can almost promise you that with people in isolation and lockdowns, it is unlikely you will see many smiles on any faces.
Caregivers hate what they do
Caregiving is a tough gig make no bones about it – but it is rewarding and there is a true joy that resonates from the soul of people who are or have been caregivers. The fact stands that not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver. Some people do hate the idea of giving up their social life and free time to care for someone else. Some people simply cannot afford to do it and to do so would harbor resentment. In the Covid-19 era, some people are consumed with personal issues that make providing care to another individual is a deal breaker.
I loved my mother and freely chose to become her full-time caregiver. It was a rewarding experience and I never regretted the love, time, effort, and energy I dedicated to my mother. In the end, I became a better person for having given of myself, my time and, most especially, my love over nine and a half years. Because I was isolated for three years prior to her passing, I feel like I’ve lived caregiving in the Covid-19 era without a mask.
Caregiving provided me the opportunity to grow, to improve, and to conquer fear and challenges. Through my caregiving journey, I became a stronger, more resilient, and more caring human being.