As the group known as the baby boomers ages and the group over 65 years of age continues to grow, another group is growing in numbers; that is their caregivers. A caregiver can be defined as an unpaid spouse, partner, family member or friend who provides another with assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, toileting and feeding), medical support (to and from the doctor offices, sorting medications, monitoring glucose levels, etc.), transportation and housekeeping. A formal caregiver is an individual who is paid to provide care either in the client’s home or in a healthcare setting like a nursing home or assisted living community.
According to a November 2012 Census, 43.5 million of adult family caregivers care for someone 50 plus years of age; further, 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia. Being a caregiver can have an impact on the individuals providing care and on their families. For many, a loss of income, increase in stress, decrease in health, decrease in social interaction and involvement, and an increase in depression and isolation can occur. Often, a caregiver is so involved with caring for a loved one that they neglect to care for themselves. However, the best way to care for others is to first care for you; a caregiver can do this by:
- Maintaining health appointments like yearly physical exams, mammograms, and seasonal flu shots
- Get enough rest; exhaustion can lesson your ability to care for others and, in some situations lead to accidents and injury to the caregiver and/or the loved one needing care
- Continue or start an exercise program. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and benefit your overall physical and mental health
- Maintain social relationships; reach out to others for emotional assistance and help. Ask for a helping hand and a respite periodically. Taking a break will help you to be a better caregiver to your love one when you return.
Tip: If you know someone caring for a loved one offer to give them an afternoon off so they can take a much needed break. Don’t wait for them to come to you. One or two hours away can make a big difference to a caregiver providing care 24/7.