Caregivers need to take care of themselves

Published 11:24 am Thursday, July 7, 2016

Roslyn Carter once said, “There are four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers; those who are currently caregivers; those who will be caregivers; and those who will need caregivers.”

This statement rings true for most people and will continue as our aging population grows.

Caregiving in the U.S., a study done jointly by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute, conducted extensive interviews with more than 1,200 family caregivers in late 2014. It paints a dramatic picture of family caregivers.

For instance, 44 million adults in the US are providing personal assistance for family members with disabilities or other care needs.That’s more than one out of every six adults. More than 34 million care for frail elders and nearly 4 million help children with disabilities. Roughly 6.5 million care for both.

The study points out a few other more relatable statistics.

The typical caregiver has been helping a parent or spouse for four years. Most caregivers work full-time, but six in 10 say that caregiving has affected their ability to do their jobs, and half reported they’ve had to take occasional time off. One third of family caregivers say they do it alone, without help from anyone.

In most communities, 78 percent of the people who need long-term care rely on a family member or friend. These findings are especially valuable as policymakers continue the national debate over long-term care, as they often forget that the vast majority of people with functional limitations are living at home and relying on family.

Common signs of stress for caregivers: feeling tired most of the time, feeling overwhelmed and irritable, sleeping too much or too little, gaining or losing weight, and losing interest. There are no easy solutions, but there are ways to improve quality of life. Seven keys that all caregivers need are: time, physical energy, emotional support, spiritual support, the need to unplug, ample finances, and finally, access to services/community resources.

If that list seems out of reach, caregivers may choose to pick two or three areas of focus. For example, scheduling me time by literally writing it in your calendar could be a great place to start. Schedule 15 minutes a day and increase it gradually. Make it feel like an indulgence. Or focus on your emotional wellbeing by creating your own sanctuary – a place where you and only you can get away. It might be a simple as retreating to your back patio or a spare room where you enjoy reading and a cup of tea.

With the number of caregivers on the rise, local agencies have come together to offer free quarterly workshops designed to answer questions and provide practical tips for caregivers.

In addition, Hospice & Palliative CareCenter is offering free workshops to businesses, civic groups, church groups, and any others interested in these issues as well as learning about the importance of advance healthcare planning.

To schedule a free workshop for your group, call 336-753-0212 and ask for Aimee Crow.