Family caregivers are people who help relatives or close friends meet their daily care needs. These caregivers often deliver at-home assistance to aging family members or to those with underlying physical and mental disabilities. They are often unpaid and lack professional training for the work they do. Mostly, they are motivated out of love, goodwill, and compassion for others. Family caregivers generally enable relatives to live at home longer, rather than having to seek assisted living or nursing home care. These unsung heroes may face immense pressure, often caring for older family members facing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Or they may take on tasks that are traditionally considered medical in nature, such as wound care, administering medications and injections, and monitoring heart rates, blood pressure, and more. Due to the high demands of the job, caregivers may undergo emotional and physical fatigue and experience burn-out. To prevent this from happening, it’s vital to ease their strain. Here are three ways to lighten their load:
1. Offer to help with chores. Caretakers frequently multitask. Not only must they attend to the “patient,” but many are also tasked with caring for the home. If you see that someone is taking on too much, step in to help by offering to make meals, do laundry, clean, garden, mow the lawn, run errands, and more.
2. Lend your ear. Caretakers can sometimes be consumed with caring for their loved one and may ignore their own needs. They may feel guilty for complaining or lack people to turn to for help. Letting them know you care by offering your ear to simply listen and not judge them can make a world of difference.
3. Visit and/or provide temporary relief. Caregivers may sometimes feel isolated or stuck at home. By offering to visit, or by covering for them so they can get out for a few hours, can help ease their stress and possibly lower incidents of depression and stress related illnesses.
As our nation’s elderly population grows, the number of people aged 65-and-older is projected to reach 83.7 million by 2050. Family caregivers will undoubtedly play tremendous roles in caring for their aging relatives in the future. Though National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) has promoted a month for self-care, advocacy, and de-stressing for caregivers, notably marked by recognition in November, it is important that the hard work of our nation’s family caregivers is acknowledged and supported year-round. In the words of Charles Dickens, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
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