Seniors need to know column
Family members, partners, friends and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones.
The majority of the long-term care in the United States is provided by family members. According to AARP (formerly known as American Association of Retired Persons), an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an older people and adults with disabilities.
Further, the estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $470 billion. November is National Family Caregivers Month, the perfect time to honor the contribution family caregivers provide in our community and offer our support along the way.
Although caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it is not without its challenges, including stress, poor health and caregiver burnout, due to the nature of the 24-hours-a- day/seven-days-a-week role. To avoid the aforementioned pitfalls and create a successful journey, it is essential for caregivers to take care of themselves.
You have a right to all of your emotions. Expressing your emotions can be a source of relief.
Practice healthy coping skills. Although different for each individual, eating right, exercising and proper sleep is a good place to start.
Set realistic expectations for yourself and your loved one.
Learn about the disease and what you can expect.
Accept help from others.
Access services and support.
It is important to not walk this journey alone; access services and support along the way. Many caregivers don’t get the help they need because it often feels like one more thing on their “to-do” list.
However, caregiving is often a 24/7 job and everyone needs a break, often referred to as respite care. Respite care can take many forms, from going away on a mini-vacation, to having someone in your home for a few hours so you can run errands or get to the doctor yourself (Family Caregiver Alliance, 2017). As with most help and support, it is helpful if you use it before you become exhausted, isolated and overwhelmed by your responsibilities.
If you know someone who is caring for a loved one, don’t wait to be asked to help, lend your support. Little things can mean a lot. Offer to sit with their loved one so they can attend a local caregiver support group. If you enjoy cooking, bring a meal or dessert by. Perhaps their lawn needs mowing, tend to their yard. Instead of the typical holiday or birthday gift, give a gift certificate to a local in-home care agency.
Finally, thank the caregivers in your life. Your gratitude and encouragement may be the one thing they need on a challenging day.
Area Agency on Aging\Area 4
Del Oro Caregiver Resource Center
Michelle Nevins is a Placer County Older Adult and Aging Commissioner.