November is time to celebrate family caregivers
November is national family caregiver month, and that means a chance to celebrate the unrecognized heroes behind your friends’ and neighbors’ front doors. Did you know that approximately one-fifth of women in the workforce are also family caregivers? Chances are you or someone you know is working this double shift, and that extra job might be affecting her physical and emotional well-being.
I often hear people saying things like:
Oh, in our culture, we don’t take care of our elderly.
Why hire a caregiver? That’s the job of the family.
- The value of informal care provided by women is estimated between 148 and 188 billion dollars.
- The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and provides 20 hours of unpaid care
- Women, on average, spend 12 years outside of the workforce caring raising children or caring for an aging parent or friend.
- Caregivers were nearly 6 times as likely to suffer from mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety.
Americans are in fact providing millions of dollars worth of unpaid work and the stress is being felt by millions, many of who are your friends and neighbors .
This month, we have a few tips for ways you can support the family caregiver:
Acknowledge the Importance of Caregiving:
Take a moment to empathize with your friends and let them know that the work they do inside the home IS valuable.
Make specific offers of help:
A family caregiver can be hesitant to ask for help. He or she is used to doing it all and might not see how you can help. Offer concrete suggestions.
Why don’t I bring dinner over on Wednesday nights? That way you don’t have to cool.
I can pick up the kids from soccer practice on Mondays. It’s on my way home.
Did you know that I used to take care of my mom? I got really good at helping her with the showers. Let me take over bath duty once a week.
I noticed the bulb was burned out in the front of the house. Let me swing by on Sunday to change it.
These may seem like small tasks, but sometimes the mere gesture of offering help to the family caregiver makes the difference. He or she may feel very alone in the caregiving experience and a visit to lend a hand can brighten his or her day.
Stay for a while:
Slow down and take time to just sit and relax with your friend. Ask if you can run an errand for them, sit with mom or dad for a few hours, or just stop by for a cup of coffee and a chat. Listen, share stories, or bring some humor and positivity from the outside.
Connect to other resources: You may be stretched to thin and think you don’t have time to help the family caregiver. Who do you know who can? Is there a retired nurse at your church who is looking to give back to her community? Did you work with a caregiver or caregiving agency for respite care previously? Can you do a little web searching and make phone calls for your friend to find out about local resources?
Encourage your friend to join a caregiver support group: This month Assisting Hands will be attending the 2nd annual national caregiving conference: https://www.caregiving.com/. The event is full of resources, and a respite room for caregivers where you can participate in dance therapy, music therapy, and educators. Please come stop by!
 U.S. Administration on Aging. (2000, Fall). America’s families care: A report on the needs of America’s family caregivers. Retrieved (March 26, 2003) from http://www.aoa.gov/carenetwork/report.html