November is National Family Caregivers month. This is a special time to find ways to support caregivers. This is a job that is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and because of that, caregivers need as much support as they can get.
A study by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services found that nearly half of all unpaid caregivers are providing care to a person living with dementia (Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).
What is especially interesting in this study is that it showed that 49% of dementia caregivers are highly stressed because of caregiving, compared to 35% for non-dementia caregivers. The report also shows higher rates of depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease and impaired kidney function among dementia caregivers. (Alzheimer’s Association Central New York Chapter, 2019). These numbers are astounding and show the extra level of support that is needed for dementia caregivers.
“No one prepares you to become a caregiver. It’s not like a financial preparedness or wellness class you can take in school. One day, you find yourself thrust into the role and wondering where to turn next.”
-Catherine James, Chief Executive Officer for The Alzheimer’s Association in New York
These caregivers need as much help and support as they can get, not only to be a good caregiver but also to keep themselves mentally and physically healthy.
So how do we do that?
Here are some ways that you can make a difference during National Family Caregivers Month:
1. Calendar Tools:
The Alzheimer’s Association Care Team highlights free tools on their website that help caregivers to organize family and friends with caregiving responsibilities. It makes it easy to share activities and information, assign tasks such as running errands, preparing meals, etc. This tool is especially helpful for adult children who have jobs and families but need to coordinate with their family to help take care of their parent. You can show these calendar options to caregivers and help make them feel connected, more in control and have less on their plate. Check out the free calendar options here: https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/care-options/care-team-calendar
2. Make a plan:
Take time to sit down with your clients caregivers this month and create a plan for them to get a reprieve. Identify support groups that they can be a part of; even online! Get them connected to other caregivers so they don’t feel alone and have people to reach out to when they feel overwhelmed.
Identify respite care programs that can offer caregivers some time for themselves. This could be so they can go for a walk, get their nails done or see a friend for coffee.
3. Check in:
One of the biggest challenges caregivers face is the feeling of isolation (AARP, 2015). They feel as if they aren’t able to talk to anyone in social settings because they are at home. To make a huge difference, give a call to a caregiver, just to check in. Write them a note and let them know you’re thinking of them. Taking only a few minutes to do this can make a huge impact.
These may seem like small gestures but they can make an incredible impact on caregivers.
Tell us in the thread how you’re planning on making a difference for National Family Caregivers Month!
AARP, 2015. Caregiving in the US.Retrieved from:
Alzheimer’s Association. (2020). Creating Your Care Team. Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/care-options/care-team-calendar
Alzheimer’s Association Central New York Chapter. (2019). How to Help a Dementia Caregiver during Family Caregivers Month. Retrieved from: https://www.syracuse.com/living/2019/11/how-to-help-a-dementia-caregiver-during-national-family-caregivers-month.html
Informal Caregiving For Older Americans: An Analysis Of The 2011 National Study Of Caregiving (2011). Retrieved from: https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/informal-caregiving-older-americans-analysis-2011-national-study-caregiving