The Toll on Caregivers

In 2016, the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving reported over 43 million adults in the U.S. had provided some type of unpaid care to a loved one in that 12-month period alone.  The report also stated that the need for caregivers is expected to increase as Baby Boomers age and either become caregivers or require caregiving themselves.

As people live longer, they may also do so with chronic pain or conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  However, according to caregiving experts, this will not necessarily equate with available caregivers for those in need.  Caregiving is hard, often required over a lengthy period, and, over time, can lead to emotional, physical, and financial hardship to the caregiver.  In fact, patients can outlive their caregivers if they do not keep themselves physically and mentally fit and recharged.

The good news is help is available—much of it for free.  The challenge is knowing how to find resources throughout the myriad and complex network of organizations and opportunities.  A good place to start is the National Family Caregiver Alliance (caregiver.org), to determine which local agency serves your area.  Caregivers can also contact Elder Care Locator (eldercare.gov), a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, to find local support.

Be sure to be specific about your needs. Request a personalized assessment of your situation and ask questions!  Your loved one may be eligible for housekeeping or respite care.  If income qualifies, the patient may also receive certain home health aide products through Medicaid.  Caregivers may obtain valuable information about stress-busting activities for themselves, like yoga or meditation classes, as well as legal and financial advice, how to select a home health agency, or advice regarding how to manage a loved one’s increasingly difficult behavior.

Caregivers should not neglect their own well-being as they strive to make their loved one’s life safe and secure.