November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to honor the estimated 41.8 million American adults who are caregivers for an elderly, ill or disabled loved one. More of them—about 24 percent—are caring for two or more loved ones (up from 18 percent in 2015), according to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 Report co-authored by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. As the senior population grows, and the need for in-home care increases as well—nearly four in 10 seniors have at least one disability—these unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 37 billion hours of informal care every year to family members, friends and neighbors.
Though caring for a loved one can be rewarding in several ways, the demands placed on family caregivers often lead to stress and burnout. This is most common for those in the sandwich generation—middle-aged adults caring for an aging parent while also still supporting their own children. Though caregiving is a labor of love, it can be physically and emotionally draining. Being a family caregiver may create financial strain as well—as many caregivers tend to reduce their work hours or take unpaid leaves of absence. LTCNews advises getting a plan of care in place for both the senior care recipient and the family, as most Long-Term Care insurance (LTCi) policies have benefits to pay for in-home care by a professional caregiver.
That is why even the simplest act of support for these family caregivers can mean the world. However, many of these caregivers will not ask for help— that’s why it’s important for all of us to reach out and encourage them and ask what we can do to help. Here are a few ways to offer support and show the caregivers the appreciation they deserve.
Offer Respite Care
Sometimes what family caregivers need the most is simple—a break. Whether that means offering to take over for an hour while they run a quick errand, or for a few days while they enjoy a much needed vacation, respite care will give them a chance to focus on caring for their own needs. A break will help family care providers recharge for the tasks at hand. Consider reaching out to an Amada senior advisor, who can offer guidance and suggest resources. Click here to find one near you or call 866-752-1961.
Prepare A Meal
A healthy diet is key to maintaining physical health and energy. However, many family caregivers may struggle to get the proper nutrition they need because of the long list of other tasks. In addition, up to one in two adults age 65 and older may be malnourished or are at risk for malnutrition, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Offering a home-cooked meal for the whole family can be a huge help. Or help arrange delivery of nutritious meals through a service such as Meals on Wheels America or a state program such as California’s Great Plates Delivered.
Help Around the House
With so many tasks on their to-do lists, household chores often get neglected, especially time-consuming jobs like cleaning out the garage or mowing the lawn. Or with the holidays around the corner, you can offer to help decorate the house and yard (or pack up the decorations after the new year). No matter how small the task, it is sure to help.
Say It’s Okay to Seek Mental Health Support
Caring for a loved one is a true labor of love and yet during especially demanding times, it can feel like a heavy obligation. Add to this the stress of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with family caregivers trying to minimize exposure risks to keep an elderly loved one safe, and the adult at-home care provider might start experiencing symptoms of depression. Remind the family caregiver there are resources designed to support their mental health—from stress-busting meditation apps like Headspace and Calm to wellness webinars offered by Mental Health America and other community-based nonprofits. Look into whether local family services organizations or your county Council on Aging might be offering virtual support groups and telehealth counseling.
Sometimes the smallest act can brighten someone’s entire day. Sending a card of appreciation and encouragement with flowers or a gift card will show a caregiver that you value what they do. Many family caregivers don’t get the chance to hear “thank you” from the loved one they are caring for. This is also one of the easiest ways to let them know you are there to support them.
Showing support during the month of November is nice, but why not do something that could help family caregivers indefinitely? Let your state representatives know that you support the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers (RAISE) Act, which would create a national strategy to support family caregivers, and the Credit for Caring Act, which would create a federal tax credit for eligible family caregivers who also work. You can also support respite care programs in your community. Enhancing caregiver programs is becoming more important as more of us live longer.
Encourage family caregivers to be honest about their own personal needs and embrace their own self-care. This should be a regular practice—not just during National Family Caregiver Month—and it is especially important now as we head into the holidays. If they’re not yet familiar with it, introduce family care providers to A Caregiver’s Bill of Rights. Compiled by The Family Caregiver Alliance, it encourages caregivers to:
- Take time for self-care. This is not selfish; it is necessary for caring for another.
- Recognize the limits of your endurance and strength, saying “no” when energy is running low.
- Get angry and express difficult feelings when needed.
- Receive affection, forgiveness and acceptance from others for what you do.
- Ask for help, manage your time in a way that works for you, and avoid attempts by relatives to manipulate you through guilt or anger.
- Take pride in what you have accomplished and applaud your courage.
At Amada Senior Care, we recognize the love and effort shown by family caregivers day in and day out. Amada is dedicated to enriching lives—not only the lives of our clients, but also their families. If you or a loved one are experiencing caregiver burnout, it may be time to reach out for professional help. Amada can help relieve the stress of meeting a senior’s care needs, allowing caregivers to better focus on their own needs and the needs of other family members. Peace of mind will come with knowing that the senior is receiving quality care, and time spent with the aging parent can truly be quality time. Click here to find an Amada office near you or call 866-752-1961.
“Simple Ways to Support Family Caregivers,” written by Taylor French and Michelle Flores, Amada blog contributors.