The Caregiver

There are more than 40 million people in the USA providing unpaid caregiving to family members.  The physical, emotional, and financial toll it can take on the caregiver, who often times is managing work, children and other elderly parents is huge.  Not to mention the emotional stress of watching the health of someone you love deteriorate.

In some cases and some states you can get paid for being a caregiver.  There are some programs that will pay a adult child caring for their parent.  Is your loved one a veteran?  Check the Department of Veterans Affairs to see what programs they may be eligible. Likewise AARP provides a quick lowdown of some ways in which the caregiver can get paid or the patient can get outside help. They also published another article a few years ago that is still relevant to this same issue.

While caregiving can take a financial toll, especially if you no longer can work and provide care, the emotional toll it takes is huge.  The caregiver often fails to take care of their own health while performing this role.  Rob Lowe, an actor, recently published an engaging article that sums up what many sites will tell you. You need to take care of yourself during this process.  Find a day out once a week to nurture yourself.  Ask a church or synagogue member, friend, another family member, or neighbor that can safely watch your loved one.  Explore paid services from Care.com, local nursing program students, or outside home health care agencies, or Adult Day Services.  Even if it is only to help bathe and dress a few times a week, it helps. Check your local Department of Social Services for other assistance programs your loved one may be eligible for.  Most times the part-time caregiver doesn’t need special training, just a kind heart and sound judgment.

There are also ways to reduce the caregiver’s time and frustration.  Consider having medications prepared and delivered to your door by Pillpack.com, a free online pharmacy that can dispense monthly prepackaged (but easy to open) medications, including over the counter needs, other common pharmacy items like inhalers, and vitamins and accepts the same copay as your local pharmacy.   Virtually every state has Meals on Wheels where volunteers deliver nutritious meals directly to the door.  Look into your local TransIt Plus organization which will provide handicapped accessible transportation to Senior citizens and disabled individuals for medical appointments and stores, typically for only a $1.00.   Often times there are private organizations locally that also provide 1:1 transportation services.   Look for professionals that will come to the house.  In my area you can have podiatry appointments, hairdressers, portable x-rays, and more make house calls.  Some physicians and nurse practitioners will also make house calls on a case by case basis.  These are only a few of potential resources available to you.  There may be more in your local area.

But most important, take care of yourself.  Just as the airlines tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before placing one on your child, you are of no good to your loved one if you are not well.  Consider your friends, or an online or local support group to share feelings and frustrations safely. Take a 15 min walk or find a closed room to just sit and breathe.  Eat healthy meals and get enough sleep.

Being a caregiver is one of the most important but least recognized role you will play in your loved one’s life.  Feel good about how you have made such a great impact on another person’s life.

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