November is National Family Caregivers Month! Did you know that there are 44 million family caregivers in the U.S. – nearly 20% of the U.S. adult population? Family caregivers provide important societal and financial contributions toward maintaining the well-being of those they care for. For many adult children, becoming the caregiver to a parent or older family member isn’t a role they planned on. Some of us grew up with our parents caring for older relatives, but the idea of our own parents aging usually seems to be something far off in the future. Of course, time flies, and for many, that future is now.
With a veritable aging avalanche occurring in America – an estimated 10,000 baby boomers reaching age 65 each day, families are pressed into caregiving roles that, at best, are challenging, and at worst could even prove to be deadly. Damaging health effects for those between the ages of 66 and 96 who provide care for a loved one include a 63% higher risk of dying than those who are not providing care. There’s also an increased risk of developing a chronic health condition or depression, or an impairment to the immune system.
Whether a family member evolves into a caregiver role as a result of a sudden crisis – such as the heart attack of a parent – or more gradually over time through the natural deterioration of independence in aging or chronic illness, a common thread of decreased self-care becomes apparent. Caregivers often experience feelings of helplessness, believing there’s no one else capable of providing the care their loved one needs, as well as feelings of guilt just in thinking of taking a break when their loved one is struggling.
In the earlier stages of caregiving, the caregiver is often more of a supervisor, ensuring that transportation needs are met, managing banking, or acting as a companion. But as a loved one’s ability to care for him or herself lessens, the tasks become more involved. The caregiver must do more hands-on, and perhaps intimate care, particularly if their loved one has a chronic illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.
The following tips can help ease those feelings of guilt or helplessness that can come with being a caregiver, and they allow caregivers to take better care of themselves in order to provide the best care for their loved one:
- First and foremost, stay healthy: eat a balanced diet, keep up with immunizations and regular check-ups.
- Take time to relax and recharge with a favorite calming activity – reading, gardening, soaking in a bath, knitting, prayer or meditation.
- Laughter really can be the best medicine! Share a humorous story with a friend, watch a comedy, or seek out a group offering laughter yoga.
- Exercise each day, whether simply taking a walk with a neighbor or participating in an exercise video, or by joining a group exercise class such as Zumba or dancing.
- Never be afraid to ask for help, such as in-home care or occasional respite care, through a professional home care agency such as 4 Seasons Home Care. Providing care for a loved one can be a 24/7/365 requirement, and it’s impossible to manage the responsibility alone.
For more ideas on managing the ups and downs of caregiving, check out this article from PBS. And for professional respite care services, contact 4 Seasons Home Care. Our fully trained, compassionate caregivers are experienced in sharing in the journey of aging care, and can allow family caregivers some much needed time away to rejuvenate.
If you live in the Atlanta, Buckhead, Marietta, Roswell, Dunwoody areas or anywhere in our 21 county service area, 4 Seasons Home Care can help you decide which services you need. Aside from providing traditional in-home care, our respite care services allow you to take time to yourself, whether it is for a weekly or monthly get-together with friends, or daily time to yourself to rejuvenate and run errands. Contact us at 770.419.5652 to learn more. Remember, you’re not alone. We can help.