Caring for the Caregiver
According to statistics, approximately 44 million people – typically adult children or spouses who may also be older with health issues – provide unpaid assistance and support for their relatives and friends. Those who provide this unpaid assistance are generally referred to as “informal” or family caregivers and they now serve as the backbone of the American system of long-term care for the elder population and those with disabilities.
Although informal caregivers are the backbone of the long-term care system, they are an
at-risk population in need of help and support themselves to continue in this essential role. As the demand for this type of informal care increases, there will also be a rising need among caregivers for information, education, guidance, and emotional support, as well as more public and private providers to deliver these services.
I recently spoke at a local community group meeting, and we had a lot to share about our experiences of being a caregiver. We shared resources and learned from each other. As an Aging Life Care Professional and with personal experience as a caregviver, I provided information on the importance of self-care and ways to incorporate this into daily life. It is important to find joy in little things and to include simple self-care activities each day. Examples given during the discussion were: talking with a friend, having a cup of coffee and some quiet time, taking a walk/doing other movement or physical activity, bird watching, being outdoors, breathing exercises, snuggling with pets, reading, and being creative (art, photography, cooking, crafts, etc). Create a self-care plan by looking at what brings you joy. Figure out who is in your circle of support, both personally and professionally- including friends, family, support groups, formal caregivers, and health care providers. Seek out additional resources to add to your circle. Try to set a goal for yourself that is simple, measurable, and easy to achieve (i.e. a goal to walk in your neighborhood for 30 minutes, 3 times per week). Writing it all down encourages you to follow through with your plan and gives you a resource to refer to when difficult situations arise.