July 6, 2016
You probably see them every day: the adult daughters, sons or spouses hovering over their senior loved one, gently smoothing a collar or asking a question of the doctor. But you might not have a chance to ask those family caregivers how they’re doing. You probably focus on your senior client, not the people in the background. However, those caregivers likely could use your help, too.
The Family Caregiver Alliance reports dire statistics culled from numerous studies into the issue of caregiver stress:
• As many as 26 percent of family caregivers say taking care of a family member is “hard on them emotionally.”
• As many as 70 percent of caregivers report symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of major depression.
• More than one in five family caregivers feels “exhausted” when they go to bed at night.
Yet you might not hear these complaints. Family caregivers largely do not grumble about these issues to senior care professionals. They often take a stoic attitude toward their own stress and focus on the well-being of their loved one. Besides, they probably don’t want to mention the stress of caregiving in front of the very person they care for.
Even if caregivers don’t confide in you about their stress levels, you can help. Proactively offering referrals to local and online support resources can help make a big difference in improving the life of a caregiver you know.
Forward this mega list to anyone who can use it—or print out a copy to distribute.
Resources and Strategies for Caregiver Support
1. Community Support Groups
Here are a few places to go where you can discover what resources your community offers in the way of caregiver support:
• Your local Area Agency on Aging
• Your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter
• Senior service organizations
• Online—search for “support group” + “city” to find in-person support groups to attend in your area
2. Online Support Groups
Many caregivers can’t get away from their responsibilities long enough to attend a support group in person. Fortunately, online support communities abound on the internet. Two that we recommend for starters are:
• Remember for Alzheimer’s Facebook Community
• Caregiver Stress Relief Facebook Community.
Caregivers also can search online for forums devoted to specific health conditions, like Parkinson’s disease.
3. Web Sites
Caregivers can turn to the web for comfort and a kind word. But websites also offer practical advice. Here are a handful that offer a broad range of helpful caregiving resources:
• CaregiverStress.com Articles, videos and other resources on a variety of caregiving topics. Check out this list of support resources in the U.S. and Canada.
• Caring.com Care tips, caregiver forums, and a care service directory.
• HelpforAlzheimersFamilies.com Disease-specific resources, advice and support.
• Alz.org (Alzheimer’s Association) A wealth of information and resources around Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
4. Blogs to Read
The antidote to caregiver isolation is connecting emotionally with other caregivers who are experiencing the same feelings, and blogs make this possible.
• Strength for the Caregiver Blogger Georgene Lahm chronicles the joys and challenges of caring for her father.
• Karen Garner’s Blog Alzheimer’s disease expert by experience, Karen writes about her experiences caring for her husband, Jim.
To discover other condition-specific blogs, perform an online search for “disorder name” + “caregiver blog”. For example: “Alzheimer’s + caregiver blog” or “multiple sclerosis” “caregiver blog”.
5. Writing a Blog
For stressed caregivers, writing a blog can be a therapeutic way to vent feelings and connect with others. You can get started in minutes on one of the many free blogging websites available:
Reading is a relaxing way to unwind at the end of a long day. Caregiver support books abound, and they’re available both in print and electronically. Here are three to try:
• Strength for the Moment by Lori Hogan Inspiring caregiver stories that offer hope and renewal.
• Confidence to Care by Molly Carpenter Practical caregiving strategies for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
• Stages of Senior Care by Paul and Lori Hogan
Checklists and tips for evaluating the wide variety of care options available to seniors and their families.
7. Respite Care
Caregiving can be a 24-hour job, and that’s not healthy for anyone. Stressed caregivers can benefit from respite programs, including adult day services and in-home respite care services. If the senior or family can’t afford to pay for respite care, encourage them to apply for a grant through the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Relief Grant Program. Through this program, Home Instead Senior Care® network partners with Hilarity for Charity® to award home care grants for families in need.
Family caregivers tirelessly advocate for their loved one, and they often push their own needs aside, which can lead to stress, isolation and burnout. When you refer caregivers to support resources before they feel they need them, you perform a wonderful service on behalf of these selfless people.
Are there any other categories of support resources you’d add to this list?
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