Caring for Caregivers

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This story is sponsored by our partners at SeniorAdvisor. At SeniorAdvisor.com, the mission is to equip families like yours with the best information available so you can make confident choices about senior care and services. To search for local care centers in your area and learn more about how SeniorAdvisor can make the process easier for your family, visit SeniorAdvisor.com​. And for more on caregiver support and advice, read the SeniorAdvisor blog here!

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Are you one of the 10 million adult children over the age of 50 caring for an aging parent*? Do you know someone who devotes time, money and emotional commitment caring for someone living with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or another age-related condition?

September is Healthy Aging Month, and while the focus is on the men and women who are getting older — we think it’s just as important to honor and nurture the people who serve as caregivers. In the wake of a diagnosis, often it’s left to family members to bear the financial and emotional responsibilities silently.

  • 37% of caregivers have children or grandchildren under 18 living with them
  • 34% take care of two or more people
  • More than 1 in 10 family caregivers report that caregiving has caused their physical health to deteriorate

It can not only take a toll on the individual caregiver, but on everyone around him or her. Almost one in seven say they’ve had to change their work schedules or even quit in order to take care of a loved one, and while an average 8% of employed women over the age of 50 report being depressed, the number jumps to 20% for caregivers.

In fact, SeniorAdvisor has an entire section of its website devoted to helping caregivers: https://www.senioradvisor.com/blog/category/families-caregivers/caregiving/ — please share it with someone who is struggling!

While of course the challenges and obstacles can become overwhelming, caregivers also experience moments of great joy, and the work they do can truly make a difference. Joe Fraley and his mother grew incredibly close as they sang together, despite her advanced Alzheimer’s disease:

Carvilla Richards was able to care for her 85-year-old mother Carmen and discover things that she never knew as a child:

It seems the key to being a successful and happy caregiver is keeping everything in perspective and embracing humor whenever possible. Comedian Jim Breuer shared his story about finding reasons to laugh even during his father’s final days:

So, what can you look for to spot signs of stress, whether you are a caregiver or you know someone who is taking care of a loved one?

  • If a caregiver starts to withdraw from other friends and family, or loses interest in his or her favorite activities, it may be time to ask: “are you OK? how can I help?”
  • If a caregiver shows changes in appetite and/or weight or is having trouble sleeping, this may be a physical manifestation of stress. Can you take over one of the regular visits, or take something off the caregiver’s to-do list (offer to grocery shop or bring over dinner)?
  • More than normal signs of exhaustion and irritability.

Remember, too, that caregiving is more than just the time and emotional investment — it can often drain or deplete a caregiver’s own savings. Don’t be afraid to reach out and help, even if you’re not sure exactly what to offer. Often, just knowing that someone recognizes and appreciates the challenges that caregivers face can make all the difference.

*Sources:

Met Life, 2011

National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, November 2009

Center on Aging Society, 2005

National Alliance for Caregiving/MetLife, 2010

AARP, 2011

WebMD, Recognizing Caregiver Burnout