Written by Beth Gilley – Regional Director (Washington Metro) – Lytle EAP, an AllOne Health Company.
November is National Caregivers Month and a good time to recognize the many family members who care for aging or disabled family members. Often these responsibilities are compounded by work responsibilities and raising children. Many spouses also care for loved ones while navigating their own health concerns and 70% report not seeing their own doctor regularly due to caregiving responsibilities. These multiple responsibilities take a toll on the individual and often the workplace.
Caregivers often cite time constraints as a major stressor, along with financial, legal, and emotional challenges.
Numerous data points from the National Alliance for Caregiving https://www.caregiving.org/ emphasize the importance of family caregiving on individuals, the workplace and society:
- Family caregivers provide 90% of long-term care
- 65 million Americans are caring for aging or disabled family members
- 70% of caregiving spouses report not seeing their own doctor due to caregiving responsibilities
- Over 50%or caregivers are women
- 25% of caregivers report that relationships suffer as a result of caregiving responsibilities
- Over 1 million children ages 8-18 care for an adult in the home
- Stress of family caregiving of person with dementia, impacts the caregiver’s immune system for up to three years after the caregiving ends increasing their chance of developing a chronic illness
The theme for National Caregiver Month is #BeCareCurious. This theme encourages caregivers to seek information from those they care for as well as the health care system. Step up and ask questions, explore possibilities and share care decisions.
Knowledge empowers the family member, the caregiver and helps guide the caregiving team to deliver patient centered care. #BeCareCurious applies to the following:
- Talk to your loved one about their goals for treatment both long term and short term
- Talk to the medical team about treatment options. New developments happen quickly and it’s good to have alternatives. Speak up and ask questions of the medical team.
- Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition. Read internet materials with a critical eye and look for well researched material from reliable sources.
- Be proactive about a care plan and what is expected next.
- Be aware of insurance coverage, have insurance documents in-hand. Learn about Medicare so you can help make informed decisions during open enrollment
As a caregiver, self-care is crucial to be able to manage the many demands. It seems a daunting task to practice self-care while caring for others, yet it is crucial for the well-being of the caregiver. If you know a caregiver, don’t ask what you can do. Offer specifics, do the grocery shopping, do household chores, pick up supplies, research respite care, do errands.
As a caregiver, it can be difficult to accept help from others, yet people genuinely want to help. Some ways to take care of yourself include:
- Talk to other caregivers, participate in a support group
- Take care of your own health
- Accept help from others and suggest specific things others can do for you
- Keep medical and legal documents organized for easy reference
- Watch for signs of depression
- Take respite breaks often
- Be open to new technologies to help with caregiving
- Stay connected with friends and support systems
Many families also care for adults with mental health problems. The National Alliance for Caregiving has published a guide for mental health caregivers that can be found at:
AllOne Health offers Medical Advocacy to help caregivers locate resources, plan care, advocate with medical systems, locate support groups and more. We are here to support families manage the many aspects of caregiving.