The Realities of being a Caregiver
by Jeff Weiss
My mom is 92 years young. Fortunately she had the foresight to sell her condo a few months before COVID hit and moved into a senior living residence. While we had been discussing this move for several years, ultimately she decided that the timing was right for two main reasons: first, she was concerned about becoming increasingly isolated and lonely in her condo; and second, she had become a caregiver for some of her friends who lived in the building with her. Whether it be taking them grocery shopping or bringing them food, she was not comfortable with the idea of taking on this role long-term.
While my mother now has to use a walker to get around, her physical health is solid as is her cognitive health. And while I wouldn’t say that she thrived during the pandemic while being stuck in her 500 square foot condo, she made the best of it and always had a positive attitude.
We are fortunate compared to many of our friends who have become caregivers for their parent(s) and/or for their partner. Most of our friends are in their 50s or 60s, meaning that their parents are likely in their 80s or 90s and are dealing with challenges that often happen as you get older, including:
- Managing the needs of one parent who has physical and mobility issues while the other parent has cognitive decline;
- Parents who insist on staying in their own home despite their limitations and need for constant care;
- Managing the various caregiving responsibilities with siblings related to specific tasks, including transportation to appointments, homecare, maintenance and ensuring that bills are being paid on time.
These and other caregiving challenges generally create a heightened level of emotional and physical stress on the caregiver, some of whom are also dealing with the needs of their own children or other loved ones in their lives.
The reality is that the dynamics around caregiver – care recipient relationships are unique for each of the approximate 50 million caregivers in North America. With so many variables involved — some practical and some emotionally-driven – trying to characterize and profile all caregivers into one or two buckets is impossible.
Given the influence and financial responsibilities that caregivers often carry, it is no wonder that many of our clients and organizations that we talk to realize that they need to find a way to reach and engage caregivers to sell them products or services in a wide variety of areas including in-home care, remote health monitoring, medication management and assistance with chores in and around the house.
With this need in mind, we undertook our most extensive research study ever by connecting with more than 2,150 caregivers 40 and older across North America. Although there are other studies that profile caregivers, we approached our study from a business and marketing perspective. We sought to uncover insights that would be of practical use to any brand or organization that wants to better understand the various circumstances at play when it comes to caregiving, how decisions are made and how to overcome challenges as they arise.
Our research produced extensive data and actionable insights. Some of the more compelling or surprising things we found out include:
- The demand is there for paid help and so too is the opportunity for brands and organizations – 8 in 10 caregivers are open to paying for some kind of help to support their caregiving needs, yet 9 in 10 could not cite any companies doing a particularly good job supporting caregivers.
- Many caregivers are inexperienced and are relying on gut instinct to make decisions – half of family caregivers have been in that role for less than five years, spelling opportunities to support them on this relatively new journey.
- The actual responsibilities caregivers have only tell part of the story – while providing care might involve a range of roles and challenges, many caregivers encounter some disagreement and/or resistance in dealing with their care recipients. This can add significantly to their stress level.
Being a caregiver also brings home the reality that many of us will be on the other side of the relationship as we get older. Brands that understand this should keep this in mind as some of the products and services that they offer may be applicable to the caregiver, either now (e.g., remote health monitoring) or in the not-too-distant future.
Check out our Connecting with Caregivers report and feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to discuss this topic or others related to engaging older adults in greater detail.