Celebrating Family Caregivers
November is National Family Caregivers Month. About 34 million Americans provide unpaid care to an elder loved one with almost half caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. At LifeCare Advocates, we see the important role family caregivers play and recognize their invaluable contribution.
Most of these caregivers do this while holding down a full-time job and/or raising families of their own. They make sacrifices and often neglect their own needs, putting them at greater risk for a wide range of diseases, including depression.
We’d like to share some tips for all the family caregivers out there who work diligently every single day to ensure the health and well-being of a loved one.
Schedule some “me” time every day
When one gets caught up in a caregiving role, it’s easy to let other things slide – doctor and dental appointments, going to the gym, grocery shopping, or even getting together with friends. Being a good caregiver requires a lot of stamina – and the best way to maintain the energy required is to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise, eating well and taking some time to spend with friends and family.
Ask for and accept help from others
If things become overwhelming, ask other family members or friends for help. For those who live out of town, ask if they could arrange a visit and/or pitch in for the costs of hiring some outside help. Ask a friend to pick a prescription or groceries. Most people are glad to help and will feel good about the opportunity to contribute.
Have a conversation with your employer
Juggling work and caregiving can quickly become overwhelming. A study from Baylor University discovered that 25 percent of employed adults in the United States are providing care for an elderly loved one. Nearly 75 percent of these workers experience frequent work interruptions, and 50 percent of the interruptions are “severe”—especially among those whose loved ones have Alzheimer’s disease or other memory loss. Have a talk with your employer and explain what’s going on. You may be able to arrange for a work schedule that will mesh better with your caregiving duties. At the very least, if you come in late a few days or have to leave for an emergency, your boss and coworkers will understand what’s going on and may even be able to provide some assistance.
Talk to your loved one
Have a candid conversation with your loved one. Would they be able to pay for care services? Is their home still a good fit, or would a move to an assisted living or other senior support community be better? If your loved one is able to have the conversation, it’s important for you to explain how caregiving affects you.
Consult a professional
The eldercare system is complex and navigating your way through it can be frustrating. Many services may be available for your family, but first, you have to find them. Talk to an aging life care professional, an elder law attorney, a financial advisor, and your local senior support agency. And remember, if your company has a caregiver assistance and referral program, that can be a great place to start.