An estimated 22 percent or 46 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid care for an adult family member or friend who is ill, disabled or elderly.
In the United States, more than 75 percent of needed care is provided by family caregivers. Caregiving spans all economic and racial groups. Most caregivers are women over the age of 45. Forty percent of caregivers are raising children; 64 percent work full or part time. On average, caregivers provide 12 hours of care weekly over a 4-½ year period. Often caregivers are gripped in the cycle of caregiving; yet do not understand the role they are in.
Q. Am I a caregiver?
Not an easy question to answer. Caregivers do not usually think of themselves as caregivers. In the early stages of caregiving, caregivers are often eager and happy to help. They are simply doing what needs to be done for a loved one. It is difficult for a caregiver to see his or her care as work. However, realizing that you are a caregiver can help you find and accept the support you need to help you better care for your loved one and yourself.
Q. How do I know if I am a caregiver?
Caregiving is diverse. Your role may be ever changing. Do you regularly do any of the following for an unable loved one?
• Cook, clean, buy groceries, do laundry
• Help bath, dress, transfer in and out of bed
• Make appointments, drive to and attend appointments
• Manage medications
• Manage bills, mail and paperwork
• Organize daily care or take on crisis management
If you answered yes to one or more of the above, you are a caregiver.
Q. Am I prepared to be a caregiver?
Most who care for an adult loved one, do not feel prepared for the complex responsibilities, challenges and deadlines required. There are five basic steps to help you in your role as caregiver.
• Understand the diagnosis. By learning about the illness or condition your loved one has, you will be more able to plan and care for their needs.
• Talk about finances and health care wishes. Although these topics may be difficult to discuss, planning ahead for both can help prevent future misunderstandings and heartache. Difficult decisions are even more difficult, if not impossible, to make during a crisis.
• Hold a family meeting. Bring together family and friends involved in the caregiving process. Discuss what the caregiver needs and who can best meet those needs. Create a written plan.
• Learn about and use community resources.
• Use the support that you have. Caregivers often say they don’t need help, while they are struggling to maintain their life and the life of the care receiver. It is vitally important not to become isolated as a caregiver.
Recognizing yourself in the role of a caregiver can help you be a better caregiver. No matter what stage of caregiving you are in, following the above steps can help you and your love one through this important journey. The work of caregiving can be daunting, but you do not have to face it alone.
Caring for the Caregiver Classes and Hands-on Caregiving Classes are available through Hospice of Northwest Ohio. Visit www.hospicenwo.org to see a list of currently scheduled sessions and learn more about them, or call 419-661-4001.