November is National Family Caregiver Month and this month we will be dedicating each blog to providing tips to empower family caregivers.
What is a family caregiver? A family caregiver is someone who is either a spouse, family member, friend, or neighbor who provides unpaid assistance to a person who has an underlying medical condition, illness, or disability. The assistance that a family caregiver provides may consist of daily living activities (i.e. showering, dressing, eating, etc.), financial management (i.e. paying bills, processing insurance claims, etc.), transportation, advocacy, household assistance (i.e. grocery shopping, chores, laundry, etc.), legal affairs, and coordinating services. An estimated 44 million Americans provide unpaid assistance and support to older adults and adults with disabilities.
Family caregivers dedicate themselves to the person they are caring for and often times at the cost of their own health. According to the National Family Caregiver Alliance, evidence shows that most caregivers are ill-prepared for their role and provide care with little or no support, yet more than one-third of caregivers continue to provide intense care to others while suffering from poor health themselves (https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-health). Studies have shown that an influential factor in a caregiver’s decision to place an impaired relative in a long term care facility is the family caregiver’s own physical health (https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-health).
Caregiver burnout can start to happen when the demands of family caregiving cause inordinate amounts of emotional, physical, and mental stress. According to AARP there are ten warning signs of caregiver burnout.
- Anger or frustration toward the person you’re caring for
- Denial about your loved one’s condition
- Exhaustion that makes it tough to complete your daily tasks
- Health problems, such as getting sick more often
- Inability to concentrate that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks or causes you to forget appointments
- Irritability and moodiness
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities that you used to enjoy
If you or someone you love is a family caregiver who is experiencing caregiver burnout, try some of the tips below.
- Join a caregiver support group – support groups provide an opportunity to vent, share knowledge and resources, and gain moral support from those that are in similar circumstances
- Get a checkup – take the time to take care of your own health. After all, you cannot provide care to your loved one when you are not at your strongest, physically
- Seek out resources – local not-for-profits, community resources, area agencies on aging, associations, and healthcare professionals such as, social workers, could provide you with valuable resources that save you time and money (check out our list of resources here)
- Get informed about family caregiving – there are many family caregiving websites most notably, Family Caregiver Alliance, AARP, and Caregiver Action Network.