One of the loneliest times my family faced in caregiving occurred when our caregiver stress peaked; when enrolling my mother in hospice.
Finding a hospice in our rural area was a challenge. When I found a possibility, they wanted a referral from my mother’s doctor.
Unfortunately he had left the practice, and the nurse practitioner would not approve hospice without my mother coming to the office for an exam. And she would not make house calls.
If Mother could come the office we would not have been seeking hospice!
Every day caregivers face similar or worse predicaments. Feeling alone in a sea of red tape is just one of the challenges of caregiving, adding sometimes unnecessarily to caregiver stress.
About 57% of adults in the U.S. were providing or had provided unpaid care to a family member or friend according to a 2005 report from Opinion Research Corp.
That’s a majority!
Wonder if they’re suffering?
Yes! In 2009 the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP in “Caregiving in the U.S.” reported they are, including…
- 11% of family caregivers reported their physical health had declined due to caregiving…
- Caring for someone with dementia can lead to physical problems for the caregiver. Studies show it can negatively affect the caregiver’s immune system for up to 3 years after the caregiving ends. And this can increase the caregiver’s risk of developing one or more chronic illnesses…
- 23% of family caregivers giving care for 5 or more years report their own health is poor or fair.
Sobering statistics, yes?
Unfortunately most caregivers feel alone, and until recently they probably were.
And many are silent because they don’t know who to ask for help, they are too busy giving care to get help during business hours, or they have asked and not gotten the answers they need.
The good news is that caregivers and caregiving are getting more attention. Both online and off.
AARP has a new section on caregiving. And it has lots of information for caregivers. You can find it at www.aarp.org/caregiving.
What are some ways caregivers can avoid becoming the suffering silent majority?
- Speak up and ask for help! Before you are at the end of your rope. Ideally caregivers should have a support system in place. Know a caregiver without one? Help him or her start one!
- Have a backup plan. And ideally a backup plan for the backup plan. You never know when something unexpected will change your plans. It could be progression of symptoms or an illness, an unexpected storm, or something else.
- Take care of your own health – physical and mental. Caregiving can easily become all-encompassing endeavor. No one person can do it alone 24/7. You need time to recharge and regroup, and you need to pay attention to your own health needs. Caregiving can be physically and mentally demanding, even exhausting.
Do you know someone who is giving care?
If so, please reach out to them and offer to help. You can make a difference by
- Giving them a brief break in caregiving…
- Offering to grocery shop or run errands…
- Paying a bill…
- Doing household chores…
- Mowing the lawn or seeing it’s mowed…
- Cooking meals…
- Or in any number of small or large ways.
All helping reduce their caregiver stress.
Every little bit helps!
You can also find out more information on ways to help at AARP’s caregiving site or on my blog, Caregiving With Purpose.
And you can support caregiving by raising awareness. In your community, your church, your business, etc.
I hope you’ll help in raising awareness about caregivers’ needs by voting for Caregiving With Purpose in Healthline’s Best Blog Contest. Caregiving With Purpose was honored by the editors with a nomination for best Health Blog of 2012.
You can vote for the same blog daily at http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest. The contest runs through Feb 15, 2013.
To your healthy and happy knitting & caregiving,
Founder, www.CaregivingWithPurpose.com and www.TheKnittingYarn.com
Ambassador of Elder Care at www.HowToLiveOnPurpose.com