Family Caregivers

When elderly parents or loved ones age, their needs may become more demanding. But sometimes when help is offered, elders may feel reluctant to take it.  Recognizing that help can make a difference in both people’s quality of life may make people more open to receiving help.  After all, asking for help is a sign that you truly have a grasp of your situation, and you know exactly what needs to be done.

Family Caregivers

The National Family Caregivers Association connects caregivers to each other and disseminates caregiving research and information.  Family caregivers are family, friends, partners, and neighbors.

The National Alliance for Caregiving reports “More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours a week providing care for that loved one.”

Suzanne Mintz, President/CEO of NFCA says, “Caregiving is very lonely.”  Caregivers can feel very isolated, especially when dark emotions or thoughts enter their minds.  The NFCA gives comfort by connecting caregivers to each other, allowing them to communicate feels of frustration or sadness in a healthy way.

The National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare reports that caregivers form a workforce that provides $375 billion a year of unpaid care.  This is almost twice as much as the amount spent on homecare and nursing homes combined ($158 billion).

NFCA research efforts have focused largely on family caregivers who provide a significant level of care.  For more information on research efforts, click here.

Caregiver Wellbeing

Many people choose to be family caregivers either because they cannot afford otherwise or because they feel they cannot entrust the care of their loved one to someone else.  Their lives are often altered, with six in ten caregivers being otherwise employed.  Stress, depression, and poor diet are common in many caregivers.  It is important for caregivers to take care of themselves as much as possible, although this is easier said than done.

The NFCA provides these ten tips for caregivers:

  1. Caregiving is a job and respite is your earned right.  Reward yourself with respite breaks often.
  2. Watch out for signs of depression, and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
  3. When people offer to help, accept the offer.
  4. Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition and how to communicate effectively with doctors.
  5. There’s a difference between caring and doing.  Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your loved one’s independence.
  6. Trust your instincts.
  7. Caregivers often do a lot of lifting, pushing, and pulling.  Be good to your back.
  8. Grieve for your losses, and then allow yourself to dream new dreams.
  9. Seek support from other caregivers.  There is great strength in knowing you are not alone.
  10. Stand up for your rights as a caregiver and a citizen.