By Dan Barney

It seems that the need for elder care is becoming more common and the availability of care at home is often limited, especially during nighttime. Outside assistance is often available and should be used if at all possible to lighten the load for a spouse or other family member.

Caregivers often don’t recognize when they are in over their heads, and often get to a breaking point. After a prolonged period of time, caregiving can become too difficult to endure any longer.

Short-term the caregiver can handle it. Long-term, help is needed. Outside help at this point is needed.

A typical pattern with an overloaded caregiver may unfold as follows:

• 1 to 18 months – the caregiver is confident, has everything under control and is coping well. Other friends and family are lending support.

• 20 to 36 months – the caregiver may be taking medication to sleep and control mood swings. Outside help dwindles away and except for trips to the store or doctor, the caregiver has severed most social contacts. The caregiver feels alone and helpless.

• 38 to 50 months – Besides needing tranquilizers or antidepressants, the caregiver's physical health is beginning to deteriorate. Lack of focus and sheer fatigue cloud judgment and the caregiver is often unable to make rational decisions or ask for help.

It is often at this stage that family or friends intercede and find other solutions for care. However waiting this long is unwise!

This may include respite care, hiring home health aides or putting the disabled loved one in a facility. Without intervention, the caregiver may become a candidate for long term care as well.

With the summer season upon us, caregivers feel even more stress – with planning, shopping and participating in various activities. This is a perfect time for family and friends to step up and provide some respite time and caregiving help.

Whether it is provided personally or arranged as a gift of services to be provided by a professional respite company or home care provider, it is a welcome gift.

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