According to the AARP, there are an estimated 46MM+ primary caregivers and almost three times that in additional family members caring for elderly relatives today. Given that there are 314 million people living in the United States, this means that 41% of the population is helping care for someone. But, with all of these numbers, why is it that people feel so alone?
From our experience, we have found that a lack of family togetherness and a lack of community are two of the reasons so many feel alone. Email trails and forced phone calls often serve as the only methods of communication among family members. One family recently shared their caregiving email trail with us. It looked like a potential soap opera instead of a family caring for their father who is aging at home after suffering two strokes.
One email chain looked a bit like, “who is paying for this” to “maybe Medicare pays” to “who is giving Dad his medicine on Tuesday afternoon” to “I think you are being mean because I live far away” to “did we forget to include anyone” to “I love you guys, but…”.
After chains of emails, it is hard to remember who is doing what, when and where. It is almost impossible to communicate well and to ask for help in a way that is effective in getting that help. This is especially complicated by the fact that most families do not live near each other any more so they depend on email and phone chains instead of in person updates and care. The result is feeling alone, and as if you are the only person who really knows what is going on and often that you can’t get the help you need.
Over the course of developing Making Care Easier, we have found that sharing tasks and tracking who is doing what and having all of the information in one place makes a huge difference. One of our users told us, “It is much easier for me to put up a request on MCE than it is for me to make phone calls and beg for help. This way, I can ask, and I can hold others responsible for tasks - it is something I could never do over email chains or phone calls.”
Using technology and tools is a great way to help save family relationships and to help introduce methods to the sometimes seemingly randomness that is often family caregiving. Tools can track participation, make asking for help easier, and involve more family members and friends than usually possible via phone calls and email chains. So, while many caregivers give up on involving others in care because the pain is much larger than the help, there are now solutions for not having to be alone and for not having to be the only one involved in caregiving for your loved one.