Americans live significantly longer now than they did a generation or two ago. Although rates have declined recently, men on average live until about 74.2 years, while women live until 79.9.
About 80% of women and men in the United States say that they’d prefer to die at home, rather than in hospice or at a hospital. The combination of longer lives and a stated preference for aging (and dying) in place means that almost a quarter of all households in the US now provide care for at least one elderly family member.
As much as you may love your aging family member, if you or another family member provides care for them — either in their home or in yours — you may find your relationship to them and to one another changes, and not necessarily for the better. Family therapy at The Soho Center for Mental Health helps you and other family members cope with your situation.
Whether you come to our offices in Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, or elect secure teletherapy, family therapy supports everyone in your family as you deal with the stresses of elder care. Here’s why it’s important to take care of yourself and your family when you’re caring for an aging member.
Long-term caregiving comes with risks
Even though you may want to care for your aging family member, devoting your life to their needs may lead to health risks for yourself and stress among other family members. About 80% of long-term caregivers report that they suffer from extreme stress and about half have clinical depression. Compared to non-caregivers, those in a caregiving role tend to have more:
- Physical health problems
- Poorer immune function
- Colds and other viral illnesses
- Decreases in longevity
- Drinking and smoking
Caregiving at home may be less expensive than a nursing home, but it causes extra financial strains and may affect your ability to generate an income. If you’re a woman aged 50 or more and you leave your job to care for an aging parent, you could lose more than $300,000 in wages and retirement savings.
Long-term caregiving changes family dynamics
Whether you’re caring for your aging partner or for a parent, or if your partner’s caring for their parent, the dynamics of your family have shifted. If you currently have children still at home, they may feel neglected or may be acting out, trying to get attention that isn’t available to them anymore.
As the caregiver, you may feel overwhelmed with your extra responsibilities, which can change the way you interact with other family members, too. You may feel resentful that other family members aren’t stepping up to do their share of the job.
Family therapy provides the support you need
Just as your family member needs support, you do, too. If you feel exhausted by the demands of caring for an aging family member, we help you and your family members communicate with one another and resolve any festering conflicts or resentments.
Our therapists create a safe environment in which you can feel free to express your fears, anxieties, and grief. They also teach you and your family members how to communicate without blame. Depending on your situation, your elderly loved one may be part of the family therapy sessions, too. Family therapy helps you:
- Express your feelings constructively
- Understand others’ perspectives
- Solve problems together
- Talk about difficult subjects
- Deal with grief and loss
- Delegate caregiving responsibilities
- Manage conflict
- Address past traumas
Family therapy is usually a short-term therapeutic intervention that lasts about 12 sessions. In addition to the work you do in the sessions themselves, your therapist assigns each family member “homework” to help you build new communication and coping skills and to learn conflict management and resolution.
Don’t despair if you’re worn out from caregiving; give yourself and your family the support and guidance you need with family therapy. Contact us today through our online form or by calling our knowledgeable staff. We’re also pleased to offer family teletherapy via a secure online portal.