One out of four Americans. That’s a lot of people, and you might be one of them. It’s the number of adults who take on the role of caring for a sick or aging family member. What’s unusual here, is that most family caregivers don’t see themselves as caregivers, but simply as loyal spouses, sons, daughters and parents—doing what any loving family member would do. If this is you, then you know the feeling of taking it all on yourself, of doing all you can, day in, day out, and still not thinking it’s enough. But the thing is, you don’t have to do it alone.
It is not unusual for spouses and family members to take on more than they can realistically handle, and many have feelings of guilt if they ask for help. Yet, asking for help is often the best thing they can do for their loved one.
Many times people become a caregiver when their loved one has a heart attack, a stroke or is diagnosed with cancer or kidney disease. Or as their loved one ages with Huntington’s disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic disabling pain or osteoporosis and needs more care. When someone is diagnosed with dementia from diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, family members often begin their caregiving role.
If you manage or provide direct assistance to someone who needs help with day-to-day activities because of a chronic condition, cognitive limitations, or aging, even if you are their spouse—you are a family caregiver. Acknowledging your role, being open to solutions, and understanding that seeking help is in the best interest of everyone, are important steps toward establishing a quality of life for everyone.
You are a family caregiver if you provide help with getting in and out of the bed and chairs, dressing, getting to and from the toilet, bathing, dealing with incontinence and feeding. You are also a family caregiver if you provide assistance such as transportation, housework, grocery shopping, preparing meals, arranging for outside services, managing finances and giving medications.
Start calling yourself a caregiver! Identifying yourself as a caregiver is the first, and often most important step, a person who is playing this important role can take. Why? Spouses, family members and friends who understand they are caregivers:
- Gain confidence as they gain access to education and support
- Become part of a community of caregivers, while maintaining their role as wives, sons, partners and friends
- Provide the quality care they want for their loved ones while staying healthy and active themselves
Anticipating needs and getting assistance, can help families adapt and enjoy the personal rewards of family caregiving. Signs that may indicate a need for help include an escalation in job or family conflicts, exhaustion and stress, the disruption of family relationships, prolonged feelings of sadness and loss of sleep.
Senior Services can help! We can support you with the help you need, to help you do your best. We offer many services that make caregiving easier such as:
- Respite care
- Home care
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care
- Meals on Wheels
- Seasons Adult Day Services
- Caregiver Support Group
- Caregiver Training and Education
Our caregiver education and support groups are designed to help with the specific challenges of caregivers in our community. Topics include, caring for yourself, accepting help, dealing with guilt, and sharing feelings with others. Based on the needs of our community, we develop educational programs and training specific to issues on aging. These programs provide practical information and much needed support for seniors, families and caregivers.
Isn’t it nice to know you can be there for your loved one without always having to be there? Learn more by visiting our Caregivers page or by calling Senior Services at 989-633-3700.