Providing full-time care for an older loved one is a selfless job many of us would readily take on if needed, but it comes with its own set of challenges and frustrations. A recent report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine said caregiver recognition and support is one of the most significant challenges facing the U.S.’s growing older population and their families.
About 18 million Americans provide care for a relative 65 or older. Many of those caregivers sacrifice their own personal health and finances to adequately care for their loved one. In some cases, the caregiver puts their career on hold. The National Academies report that caregivers who are over age 50 and stop working to care for a loved one lose on average more than $300,000 in lost wages and benefits. This figure does not factor in the lost Social Security benefits caregivers will have at retirement due to a lower earnings history.
If you are a caregiver, remember to take care of your physical, mental and emotional health. Do not be afraid to ask for help from friends and relatives. Consider joining a caregiver support group to share your story with others and find helpful resources.
If you are not a caregiver but know someone who is, you can help lighten their load. Be a friend. Listen to their concerns, and let them vent. It can help relieve some of their stress, and it can give you some good ideas of ways you can further assist them.
Caregivers often do not ask for help from others, even when stress and fatigue consume them. Sometimes, it may be better to just show up and offer to help with a particular task or drop by unannounced with a home-cooked dinner. Offer to watch the loved one for an hour or two, so the caregiver can run errands or enjoy a movie or walk outdoors. If the caregiver is also a parent, offer to help pick up or drop off their kids from school or extracurricular activities.
More information on local caregiver support efforts is available at the Whitley County Cooperative Extension Service. Call 549-1430; visit the office currently located in Cumberland Regional Mall, 965 S. Highway 25W; or email DL_CES_WHITLEY@EMAIL.UKY.EDU.