During National Family Caregivers Month, it’s time to celebrate those among us who care for spouses, parents. and other family members, and to provide some reminders and resources for the unsung heroes who ensure that their loved ones are safe, fed, housed, and comfortable.
Family Caregivers Have Lots of Company
If you’re caring for a family member at home, you’re well acquainted with the challenges associated with helping someone who is unable to manage the activities of daily living (or ADLs) on their own. The American Geriatrics Society defines “informal care” as any type of unpaid care provided by family and friends, and the statistics around family caregiving are staggering as evidenced by a recent study conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave:
- Family members provide more than 95% of non-professional care for older adults who do not live in nursing homes.
- In total, family caregivers provide 37 billion hours of care annually.
- Caregivers looking after elderly family and friends log 3 times as many hours per year as professional caregivers.
- The estimated economic value of family and friend caregiving is roughly $500 billion per year—3 times greater than Medicaid’s expenditures on professional long-term care.
Who’s Providing Unpaid, Informal Care?
More people are becoming responsible for providing family care each year, and The American Geriatrics Society estimates that patients with memory-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia are the recipients of a large share of informal care hours.
It’s interesting to note that while many home caregivers are helping older adults and may be middle aged or older themselves, a recent AARP study found that more than 10 million millennials in the U.S. also act as unpaid family caregivers, and nearly 73% of them provide care while holding down a job.
Self-Care for Caregivers
Caring for a loved one at home can take a toll on the caregiver’s emotional, physical, and financial well-being. During National Family Caregiver Month, the Caregiver Action Network (CAN) reminds caregivers to look after themselves too and offers the following list of self-care reminders.
- Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
- Take care of your own health so you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
- Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
- Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
- Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks often.
- Watch out for signs of depression. Don’t delay getting professional help when you need it.
- Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
- Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
- Make sure legal documents are in order.
- Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!