More than 34 million Americans provide long term care to loved ones over the age of 50. Some 23% of family caregivers report having fair or poor health. An astonishing 40-70% have significant symptoms of depression. These are but a few sobering figures common in the caregiver community, most of whom are adult children and spouses of aging loved ones.
Long term care also influences a caregiver’s financial situation. The out-of-pocket costs for caregivers who are caring for someone who was age 50 or older averaged $5,531 in 2007. About 37% of caregivers for someone age 50 and older reduced their work hours or quit their job in 2007 (AARP, 2008). Working less hours, requesting unpaid time off, and paying out-of-pocket expenses on behalf of a loved one all contribute to burdens caregivers experience. We have to make compromises as a result of caring for a loved one.
Many of us become so consumed in meeting the needs of our aging loved ones that we forget to meet the needs of ourselves. If you identify as one of the 5.3 million, remember you are not alone. There are resources available to family caregivers in Arizona who provide long term care.
- Caregiver magazine lists caregiver support groups in Maricopa county
- Azcaregiver.org offers a free Caregiver Resource Line at 1-888-737-7494
- RewardingWork connects families in need of caregiving with personal care workers
- The Arizona Department of Economic Security offers a Family Caregiver Support Program that you may be eligible for.
- The Department of Economic Security also lists many local resources
- Banner Alzheimer’s Institute offers many resources specifically for caregivers to people with Alzheimer’s or related dementia
Reading up on caregiver resources takes time and effort, which some of us may not have at the moment. Don’t fret. Here’s a quick list of caregiver survival tools to help you remember that your loved one is not the only one in need of TLC.
- Take a break: Stepping away from our caregiver responsibilities for a few hours, a day, or long weekend does not mean we are doing less than we should for our loved ones. Taking a break recharges our mind, body, spirit and promotes a positive outlook.
- Eat right: Eating well and staying hydrated fuels our bodies and sustains our mental focus. We may have to rely on convenience foods more often than we prefer, but we do have choices. Stopping at the local grocer to grab a deli sandwich, apple, and juice may take the same amount of time as waiting for a hamburger, fries, and diet soda. You may save a little money too.
- Accept help: You don’t have to do it all nor should you. If a friend or family member offers to take your loved one to an appointment so you can do errands, cook dinner, or catch the early show, say yes.
- Acknowledge feelings: We all have good days, bad days, and many days in-between when providing long term care. Try not to feel guilty for feeling frustrated, inadequate, or burnt-out. Rather, seek a caring friend or support group to talk things through or to listen to other caregivers share similar sentiments.
- Exercise: Talk a walk. Go to the gym. Bike around the block. Doing a physical activity you enjoy a few times a week helps promote a healthy body and alleviates stress.
- Treat yourself: If taking a day off is out of the question, take time to indulge in something you enjoy. You deserve a little me-time for all that you do for your loved one.
- Check your health: When our minds are too busy to tell us to slow down, our bodies show symptoms we should no longer ignore. Take care of yourself or seek a doctor’s advice.
- Be present: As long term care providers, we are often one, two, or three steps ahead of everyone else. Remind yourself to appreciate today for what it is. Cherish its victories and learn from its trials.
The most important thing to remember is that you do not have to go through this all alone. Friends, family, and community members are always available to provide emotional support and help you in your care of your loved one. All you have to do is ask.