Help for Caretakers of Aging Parents

Filed under: Senior Edition |

What difficulties do caretakers of aging parents face and how does this responsibility affect the caregiver’s own life?

In recognition of National Family Caregivers Month (November), a  national poll by AARP and the AdCouncil reports on how family members react to the added burden of caretaking.

Caregiving Takes A Toll
Caregivers — including family — who end up with responsibility for elderly parents are apt to feel sad, depressed and isolated. They may be bottling up their feelings, getting less sleep, eating more, avoiding people or situations, and having trouble making decisions.

Watch Your StepBy definition, caregivers are nurses, housekeepers, cooks and accountants, but caregivers also are friends and family — daughters, sons, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and even spouses.

In fact, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S., providing an estimated $450 billion worth of uncompensated care to loved ones annually.

“Family, friends and neighbors who support a loved one rarely see themselves as a caregiver,” said Debra Whitman, AARP Executive Vice President for Policy, Strategy and International Affairs. “And they almost never ask for help. But at some point in their lives most people will be a caregiver or need support. Our campaign is here to remind caregivers that they aren’t alone and there is help.”

Where can family caregivers find help?
AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center offers multiple solutions and touch points for caregivers seeking help.

in fact, the year-long Caregiver Assistance campaign has already received over $33 million in donated media and 10 million online visits to AARP’s caregiving page, where personal stories, resources, support channels, and news are available to make the caregiver job easier. For example:

• Monthly Online Chats Focus on Caring for Senior Family
In one feature of the website, people can sign on for live monthly online chats with aging and multi-generaltional issues expert, Amy Goyer. Topics range from balancing work and caregiving, transportation, family conflict and caregiving, end of life planning, and healthy eating. In addition, the Caregiving Resource Center archives past chats.

• Suggestions for Connecting Caregivers with Experts
The website connects caregivers with other experts and caregivers, too. For example, Dr. Barry Jacobs writes about aging parents who refuse to accept help graciously. Jacobs suggest that caregivers facing resistance should help aging parents feel part of the process by emphasizing that receiving care graciously is equivalent to getting old gracefully.

• Inspiring Personal Stories like “Caregivers Are Liberators”
 As a young naval officer, Paul Tobin lost full use of his hands and arms, as well as the ability to walk. “Nobody likes to think of himself as dependent upon others for simple tasks. For a long time, I resented my caregivers as if they were somehow robbing me of my independence. Today, I recognize that asking for help maximizes my independence and quality of life.”

• Additional Resources—The Older Americans Act and More 
The site also describes services available via the Older Americans Act, including Meals on Wheels, job training, and senior centers.

“12 Resources Every Caregiver Should Know About”  provides a list of key resources to help in the caregiving role.

• The Thanks Project
Want to send your thanks? This website is a place where people can say “thank you” to the 42 millions caregivers in the U.S.

Caregivers Are Found in the Most Common Places
The New York office of ad agency TAXI worked pro bono to create the current multimedia public service announcements about caregiving. Agency President David Jenkins noted that the work hit home for the creatives and others working on the ad campaign.

“We have caregivers here on our staff, so this was a really personal issue for us.” said Jenkins. “Our research showed that caregivers face a great deal of stress in having to play these multiple roles for their loved ones, and that was a really powerful new idea to be talking about. We knew that there was creative opportunity to showcase this story, demonstrating to caregivers that we understand their struggle and can offer resources to help.”

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