Elderly Woman and Her CaregiverAs the holidays approach, everyone’s schedule gets really busy. If you’re one of the 43.5 million informal caregivers in the United States who provides unpaid care to a family member with a disability or illness, your schedule may get even crazier. We’d like to remind caregivers to find resources to assist them and to take care of their own needs.

Statistics On Caregiving

The Family Care Alliance estimates that more than three-quarters of all caregivers are female. Female caregivers can spend more than 50 percent of their time providing care, which is more than most males. However, it should be noted that more men are sharing caregiving tasks today than in the past. The difference is that men are more likely to use paid caregivers to provide personal care assistance.

The FCA estimates that the economic value of informal (unpaid) caregivers is about $470 billion annually. For comparison, Walmart has an annual sales value of $477 billion. If Medicare or Medicaid were to pay for the care provided by informal caregivers, it would almost double their budget. Sadly, many caregivers report that they have no choice but to provide clinical tasks because insurance won’t pay for professional caregivers.

Caregivers Can Find Resources

On average, caregivers spend almost 25 hours per week providing care. About 25 percent of caregivers spend 41 or more hours each week providing care. That’s the equivalent of a full-time job, without pay. About one-third of caregivers provide care for less than one year, but 15 percent of caregivers have been providing care for over 10 years or more.

Caregiving impacts a person’s personal, social and professional life. A caregiver often becomes isolated from their own friends and family, just because his or her time is so limited. Caregivers who are caring for parents may have children of their own to take care of without having any additional help. Add to that the stress of having the parent-child dynamic upset, and the situation becomes even more stressful.

Fortunately, there are resources for caregivers, even if you don’t have financial support or insurance. AARP has an extensive section for caregivers, because the average age of caregivers is 49.2, and 34 percent of caregivers in the United States are over 65 years old. More importantly, even small communities have resources. If you’re a caregiver and need help, here are some ideas:  

  1. A local church can often help.

If you or the care recipient attended church, start there. Otherwise, look for a church with a senior group. You may find someone who is willing to sit with your loved one for a few hours each week, but you may also find community resources for your situation.

  1. Find a mental health professional for yourself.

Caregivers forget to reach out for support for themselves. Caregiving can be frustrating and depressing. Find a trusted person you can turn to on a regular basis to process your own emotions. Give yourself permission to be unhappy with the situation. If you can’t afford a counselor, talk to your spiritual advisor or a mentor.

  1. Be informed.

The FCA offers a wide variety of education and resources about different medical conditions, caregiving issues, and strategies and advocacy. The more you know about caregiving for your loved one’s condition, the more you can find help.

4. Be patient and ask for help.

Caregivers often find it hard to accept help. It can be hard to leave a loved one with someone else. Care recipients are often apprehensive at trying something new. The first attempt to try something new may not work, but don’t give up. Start small, by maybe visiting the local adult day care or only having a respite caregiver for an hour.

Don’t wait until you’re beyond stressed to get help. Caregiving is serious business. Get help. Don’t feel guilty. Take care of yourself to be at your best for providing care to your loved one.

Category: Aid Health and Wellness

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