Powerful Tools for Caregivers

A Response to the Needs of the Family Caregiver

Family caregivers are one of the pillars of health care in the United States. In fact, family caregivers provide approximately 80% of long-term care services in the United States. The majority of adults who are in need of long term care and are living in the community rely on family and friends for assistance. In the United States, one-fourth of households are involved in caregiving situations. In 2004 in New York State, over 1.9 million people were involved in the caregiver role, providing over 2 billion hours of care having an estimated market value of in excess of $20 billion. Nationally, 50 million people provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend in any given year and 17% of family caregivers provide care for 40 hours per week or more. In addition to the caregiver role, many givers are also employed outside the home. In fact, family caregivers comprise 13% of the workforce. Many caregivers (59%) who care for someone over 18 years of age, either currently work or have worked while in a caregiving situation and 62% have had to make adjustments to their work-life to accommodate the caregiving role, both situations that can increase related stress

While caregiving can be a source of great personal satisfaction and can enhance the caregiver's own sense of self-identification, the demands are often extraordinary and are known to tax the personal health of caregivers themselves. Caregiving itself has been identified as a risk factor for health problems, particularly because of the stress associated with the demands of caregiving. The stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to affect a person's immune system for up to three years after the caregiving situation ends, increasing the risk for chronic illness. Family caregivers providing care for 36 or more hours per week often experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. For spouses, the rate is six times higher and for those caring for a parent two times higher than in the non-caregiver population. Family caregivers report having a chronic condition at more than twice the rate of non-caregivers. Elderly spousal caregivers who themselves have a history of chronic illness and who are experiencing stress have a mortality rate that is 63% higher than that of their non-caregiver peers. Many caregivers report difficulty in communicating effectively with health care providers and/or with members of their own families.

If you are a family caregiver:

  • Are you feeling stretched while coping with the physical, emotional, and financial demands of caregiving?
  • Are you experiencing difficulty in dealing with your own emotions and reactions to the caregiver role?
  • Do you feel alone and in need of assistance in meeting your own needs in face of the demands of caregiving?
  • Would you like to know more about resources in this community that might be of help to both you and your loved one?
  • Could  you benefit from some very practical advice to enable you to communicate more effectively with family, friends, and health care providers?

If so, consider Powerful Tools for Caregivers, an educational program of proven effectiveness which will not only provide you with tools to deal with stressors and the challenges of caregiving, but will also help you to become more comfortable in your role as a caregiver.

The program is co-sponsored by the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the University at Buffalo and the Erie County Department of Senior Services and has been enabled by a grant from the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York.

The program is delivered in six weekly sessions, each lasting about two and one-half hours. Classes are scheduled at different times and locations in the greater metropolitan Buffalo area. Cost is minimal ($25) and includes an excellent handbook. BlueCrossBlueShield of Western New York and Independent Health each cover expenses for their subscribers. For information and registration, call 716-858-2177 or email caregiver@erie.gov

Note: Statistics provided by the National Family Caregivers Association