A Time to Celebrate and Honor Caregivers
With over 66 million family caregivers in the United States alone, National Caregivers Day (this Friday) is a way for us to pay tribute to the caregivers who provide for the health and wellbeing of their family members, friends, or neighbors.
Caregivers are as diverse as the United States as a whole: they come from every age, gender, socioeconomic, and racial/ethnic group. They share positive aspects of caregiving. They also share many struggles but can face different challenges depending on their circumstances.
Adults of all ages are among the ranks of family caregivers. More than a third of caregivers were ages 50 to 64, about a quarter were 35 to 49, and another quarter were 18- to 34-year-olds.
Caregivers provide quality, compassionate care every day and there are many ways we can show them how important they are in the lives our of loved ones, especially our loved ones living with Alzheimer’s, dementia-related diseases, and chronic illness.
Whether you are a caregiver yourself or appreciate those that care for your loved one, National Caregivers Day is the perfect time to acknowledge the dedicated, compassionate people who work as caregivers or have a caregiving role in their family – paid or unpaid.
According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, 31 percent of all U.S. households had adults serving as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative.
Perhaps most surprising as America’s population ages: 7 percent of family caregivers were age 75 or older, a share that has gone up steadily in the past two decades. Often the recipient is a spouse with dementia or heart disease who needs a high level of care for 34 hours or more a week, and the caregiver has been providing that help for more than five years.
Use of paid services is related to the care recipient’s illness or condition, and therefore, his or her presumed need for help with daily living. Caregivers that are among the most likely to report the presence of paid help include the following:
– Those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia (45%),
– Those caring for someone with a long-term physical condition (38%),
– Caregivers of recipients ages 65 or older (38%).
– Estimates suggest that the number of caregivers will only continue to rise. Forty-three percent of the U.S. public report that it is very likely they will become a family caregiver in the future.
It is no wonder we should celebrate and honor this day of recognition for caregivers everywhere, both paid and unpaid. Unpaid caregivers are typically caring for a family member. Paid or unpaid caregiver, it can sometimes be a thankless task where the caregiver goes unrecognized, giving their time and resources so their family member will be taken care of in a way they deem appropriate.
National Caregivers Day is a well-deserved opportunity for caregivers to receive an expression of appreciation, gratitude, and recognition for the unselfish care and services they are providing as caregivers.
Here are seven great ways to express your thanks and gratitude to the caregivers in your family:
1. Tell them in words
We might think that family caregivers know we appreciate what they do. Yet these caring individuals often report feeling isolated and undervalued. They can’t read our minds! Take time for a conversation or to write a letter expressing your appreciation of the important role they play. This can sometimes be emotionally challenging if we feel a sense of guilt that we aren’t doing as much for our loved one as we would like, or think we should. Do it anyway! But don’t stop with words.
Caregiving can create a sense of isolation. Ask how the caregiver is doing. Check-in regularly. Create a safe space for the caregiver to express their thoughts about their role and their concern for the person receiving care. Caregiving is a mixed bag, with joys and frustrations. Maybe you are a person with whom the caregiver feels safe expressing some of those mixed emotions.
3. Ask how you can help
Most caregivers have a wish list when it comes to balancing their caregiving duties with their work, family and personal responsibilities—but it can be hard for them to ask for help. The need for respite is usually high on the list. If you live nearby, offer to take a regular shift with your loved one. If you live at a distance, visit more often. If your loved one can travel, arrange for visits at your place.
4. Enlist everyone
A holiday visit when the whole family is together can be a good time to have a family meeting. Encourage the caregiver to share information about your loved one’s needs. Brainstorm solutions to spread out the caregiving load. If possible, have the person who is receiving care at the meeting as well. Remember that the primary caregiver has the most information—don’t be one of those long-distance caregivers who swoops in and criticizes!
5. Bring in a professional
If the family conversation isn’t going well, or family members are stumped about what to do, it’s worth it to bring in outside help. A counselor can facilitate the discussion. Geriatric care managers also can help family discussions be more productive, and they can perform an assessment of an elder’s needs and make recommendations.
6. Arrange for support services
If family members have the time and ability to help out with care tasks, home maintenance, transportation, yard work and whatever else needs doing, set up a schedule. If the family can’t do it all, help the caregiver locate professional services such as housekeeping, yard care and meal delivery. Arrange for home modifications, such as an accessible bathroom and wheelchair ramp if needed.
7. Hire in-home care
Arranging for home care services can be the very best way to lighten the caregiver’s workload and stress level, while providing peace of mind for everyone in the family. Families who share the cost of these services often find that in-home care is an affordable solution—even an economic advantage if it allows caregivers to continue in their own careers. In-home caregivers provide personal care and grooming, companionship, housekeeping and laundry, nutrition support, medication reminders and many other practical tasks. The last thing your caregiver relative needs is to take on an HR role, so look for a reputable agency that handles hiring, background checks, training, taxes, liability insurance and other employer duties.
For information on what the CLL offers
Michele Hendrix, President Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network