Sometimes called an informal caregiver (family members, friends, and neighbors), approximately 40 million unpaid caregivers in the United States provide care for one other adult, and some may be assisting several. Recent statistics show 80% of long-term care in the US is provided by unpaid or informal caregivers, with the highest number of caregivers being women – many of whom have reached middle age themselves. Female caregivers are statistically more likely to experience stress, have depression, be socially isolated, or have financial difficulties.
There are many people providing care for an aging parent while working full time and raising children. This scenario may exacerbate a sense of isolation when there is little time to seek outside social interactions and personal development, with little time or energy left for oneself. When there are complicating factors such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, developmental or bed-bound illnesses, etc., the stress is relentless.
Putting one’s life ‘on hold’ can be distressing and create anger and frustration. With less time to exercise, eat properly, or get enough sleep, caregivers may have compromised immunity and more illnesses than non-caregivers. Caregivers often experience a sense of guilt for a variety of reasons and may hold themselves to high standards, which adds more stress. The average caregiver’s role is 4 years. About a quarter of the caregivers provide care for more than 5 years. In the caregiver role, you might not be asked about your well-being and It is important to be honest with oneself about what can be accomplished alone. Give yourself permission to seek outside help for information, respite care, assistance with caregiving, or other needs you may have.
Various forms of professional support therapy and self-care for caregivers can be beneficial in alleviating some of the stress. Be faithful to a self-care routine, even though you may feel overwhelmed and short on time. This may include pursuing a favorite hobby, reading a book, watching television, sewing, doing nothing, etc. A 30-minute escape into your own world and one you schedule to anticipate, can renew your energy and clear your mind. Make a date with yourself and keep it!
Along with the challenges, there are many rewards in caring for a loved one. We wouldn’t have it any other way, right? You’re an island of emotions – it is important to remember you’re not alone! There are many others sharing your experience every day. Have self-compassion, too! Reach out and let others know you are caregiving, share your stories with them and hear theirs – create your own community of understanding and compassionate supporters for one another.
You will find appropriate resources and support through various agencies and organizations, such as senior centers, churches, assisted living facilities (sometimes have day care for your loved one while you are away for the day), and government agencies. For resources in your area, contact Agency on Aging Area 4, an advocate for all seniors in our area, at 916-486-1876 or agencyonaging4.org. Take good care of yourself and be a successful caregiver.
Partners In Care is locally-owned and operated family business providing non-medical in-home care in ten Northern California counties.