Are You the Family Caregiver? Do You Know How to Ask for Help?
By David Greenberg
As we all know, caregivers play a vital role in our society. Without them, our system of healthcare – especially for the elderly – would fall apart.
More than 40 million family caregivers provided 37 billion hours of care for loved ones. The value of this care is estimated at $470 billion, in the last five years. That’s $470 billion that simply does not exist in the budgets of any healthcare-related agencies.
If you are one of those 40 million, you are, in all likelihood, caring for an elder parent. And you are doing it simply because that’s your responsibility as part of the family. For most family caregivers the common refrain is, “My parents took care of me. Now it’s time for me to take care of them.”
You may be in the caregiver role for no other reason than geography. You may be one of a few adult children, but you may be the one who lives closest to aging parents or other family members in need of care.
However, none of that means you need to be doing this alone.
The biggest problem for family caregivers to overcome may be the inability to ask for help.
It is a common feeling among caregivers that they are in this by themselves, and it has to be that way. It’s often the case that the caregiver feels so overwhelmed that they don’t even have the time or ability to ask for help.
In some cases, the request for help may be seen by the caregiver as a sign of weakness. After all, in their minds this is their task – feeling responsible for those who cared for them.
They may also not be aware that help exists. However, if you are reading this article, we hope you understand that by looking through the rest of the pages in this newsletter, you will see that there is plenty of help right here in this community.
But asking for help is vital in your effort to successfully complete your responsibility as a caregiver. The simple reason for that is that without help, you will burn out.
Most caregivers believe they were not prepared to assume these responsibilities. And almost all caregivers find it to be stressful, if not overwhelming. But the concept of taking a break, or respite, is beyond their thinking, with about half saying it’s overwhelming.
Being a caregiver without respite is a formula doomed to fail. But about 85 percent of family caregivers in the U.S. do not receive any respite care. Because of that and feelings of isolation, anywhere from 20-40 percent experience depression. Many are in poor health themselves. If you are overwhelmed, depressed, or ill you cannot provide your best effort as a family caregiver.
So, let’s go back to asking for help. It’s not a self-serving act. Asking for help is not a selfish act. It is actually an act of love and compassion for yourself and the family member for whom you are caring. Studies show that even a small amount of respite can make the world of difference.
Here are the steps you should take to ask for help. First, determine what help would be the most useful. Is it someone to help pay the bills, shop, clean or just spend time with your loved one, so you can get some time off for yourself? Consider asking other family members, even if they live far away, to come here for some time and give you the opportunity to get away. It may be finding and being able to talk to other caregivers going through the same challenges as you. Second, use this newsletter and other community resources to find out where to ask for help. Finally, make the ask. We know that’s hard but it’s better than continuing down the current path. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone!
Also in this issue:
Information about a class in gentle motions for seniors and caregivers from Paul Gebhart
Sam Boone on a recent upsurge in senior scams
News on a senior expert panel coming to the Windsor, a Dementias Resource Expo in Ocala and volunteer information for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Also in This Issue