November is National Family Caregivers Month

By Dr. Jack Singer

November is National Caregiver Month by Dr. Jack SingerAccording to the The National Alliance for Caregivers 29 percent of the U.S. population provides care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend. The number of older Americans who are living with chronic disability and require help from family members is a major social concern.

Statistics show that about 75% of caregivers are women and two thirds of the caregivers in the United States hold down regular jobs in addition to being a caregiver which can lead to huge emotional and physical stress over time.

What is a Caregiver?

A caregiver is someone who, whether paid or unpaid, looks after another person who can no longer look after themselves due to illness, trauma, or old age. When a person is limited in what they can do, they need someone to step in and give them the care they need. These are people who need help with daily basic tasks such as grocery shopping, house cleaning, bill paying, meal preparation, medications, bathroom and personal hygiene, and so much more.There are millions of caregivers in the United States alone. If you are a caregiver, you are by no means alone.

It is not easy to be the one who is caring for someone else, no matter what their particular health issue may be. If you are in the position of being a caregiver for a loved one, here are some tips to help you when your energy flags and you are concerned about burnout.

Seek Resources

The internet is a wonderful tool for finding information about just about anything these days. Spend some time Googling terms that apply to your particular set of circumstances. For instance I just typed this search term into Google, “How to be a good caregiver” and found several excellent articles. This one in particular I thought was very helpful: Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers.

Take time to find out all you can about care giving and the resources available to you. Since you are not alone, there is plenty of information on the Internet, in magazines, and at local hospitals and nursing homes about the art of being a caregiver. When you know what you are facing, you can prepare for it.

Craft a Strong Support System

If you are caring for a family member, you may not be the only one who is working to see your loved one get better. Keep in contact with other family members so that you can coordinate your efforts on behalf of your loved one. If each person knows their role, there will be fewer reasons to stress out along the way and no one person bears the brunt of the entire responsibility.

Get to Know the Medical Professionals

I just Googled this term “Caregivers talking to medical professionals” and instantly found a great article at Caregivers called “Communication with Health Care Professionals” that gives some excellent advice and tips for talking to healthcare professionals.

Take Care of Yourself!

Caregiving is demanding and caregivers need time off from their caregiving responsibilities to relieve stress and prevent burnout.

  • Schedule regular afternoon or evenings out.
  • Take time to talk with friends, either in person or on the phone.
  • Eat nutritious meals.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Exercise regularly. It is a great stress buster.
  • Make a list of jobs you could ask for help with. For some reason, this seems to be one of the hardest things for caregivers to do!
  • Arrange adult day care.
  • Join a support group.
  • Draw strength from your faith.
  • Take time to pamper yourself.
  • Plan a weekend getaway.
  • Hire a temporary caregiver from a respite care program. While many forms of respite care exist, the quality of care provided by respite services may vary.  Therefore, it is important to check out the facility before leaving your loved one

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