The term “Caregiver” has been coined in the last decade or so to identify and recognize those people who care for ill or debilitated friends or family members. A family caregiver is usually an unpaid person who provides care for those who are unable to care for their own needs.
It is likely that at sometime in each of our lives we will find ourself in this position – caring for an elderly parent, an ill spouse or sibling, or a dear friend. As the American population ages, growing numbers of men and women are assisting in the care of older family members — an estimated thirty-eight million caregivers in the United States today.
Many people remain healthy and active as they age. Others require assistance with a variety of daily activities — housekeeping, personal care, transportation, finances, assistance with taking medications.
On average, caregivers provide care 12-15 hours a week for a period of 4.5 years. Approximately two million caregivers belong to a sandwich generation responsible for raising children at the same time they are caring for parents.
Caregiving may be a welcome way to help a loved one remain as independent as possible; it may also be a role filled with unfamiliar challenges and concerns. Many caregivers are seeking help as responsibilities become more extensive and, fortunately, information and assistance is available from numerous sources.
We’ve listed many helpful hints and resources in this section to assist you in your journey as a caregiver.
Major Considerations in Caregiving
- Understand the care issues of normal aging for the care recipient.
- Organize pertinent personal and emergency information.
- Gain knowledge of health issues of the care recipient.
- List what caregiving needs are at present.
- Develop a plan to prioritize needs.
- Build a network of support (family, friends, community, professional).
- Assess you own personal resources.
- Keep daily schedules concise and simple.
- Deal with personal stress issues.
- Seek respite care.
- Locate resources (phone numbers, publications, web sites).
Caregiver Stress: Tips To Deal With It
The following Model for Self-Care may be used as a guide for caregivers to establish their own plan of Self-Care.
- Be sure to get regular exercise.
- Try to get adequate sleep.
- Eat a nutritious low-fat diet.
- Plan your daily activities with a sense of purpose.
- Take 15 minutes daily to relax; imagine the way you’d like your life to be… respite creates new energy.
- Do at least one thing you really enjoy everyday.
- Take mini vacations to relieve stress and gain a new sense of purpose.
- Be prepared to deal with change (good and bad); it’s part of life.
- Learn all you can about any difficult situation in your life. Education is a positive tool for troublesome life situations.
- Review your positive accomplishments frequently; they can be blueprints for continued success.
- Seek help and support for problems. There is an abundance of help from friends, family and professionals to help you deal with difficult changes.
- Remember self-care is important to the well being of yourself and your care recipient.
- Keep a notebook of resources readily available.
As the needs of your care recipient change, your need for resources may also change. Share your network with others; they may also have resources to share with you.
Listed below are key resources that can start your search for supportive information and materials.
American Association of Retired Persons
AARP offers publications on caregiving, support groups, home health care, housing, assisted living devices and links to other resources.Alzheimer’s Association
Provides support and assistance to afflicted patients and their families, and helps fund research for prevention, cure and treatment.Eldercare Locater
Nationwide directory assistance service designed for local support resources for aging Americans. The specialist asks the caller for a brief description of the problem and for the county and /or city of the locale of interest.
Family Caregiver Alliance
Web site: www.caregiver.org.text/index.html
FCA is a non-profit organization that assists family caregivers of adults suffering from memory loss as a result of a chronic or progressive brain disorder. The web site includes useful material for any caregiver, including individual fact sheets.
National Family Caregivers Association
Web site: www.nfcacares.org
NFCA is a national non-profit membership organization. Members can receive services, support, products and publications.