Caring for a family member can take a lot out of you. From your job to your relationships to your own health, everything in your life can be affected by a commitment to fulfilling family obligations.
Women in middle age are especially likely to provide care for older relatives, injured vets, and kids with special needs. And it’s particularly common for both men and women in the middle class to provide care for loved ones when their family members don’t qualify for long-term care benefits and yet can’t afford the help of assisted-living facilities or homecare agencies.
So 75% of family caregivers who have jobs and do nursing tasks for their family members are stressed, says an AARP report titled Employed Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care
[PDF]. More than half of family caregivers are depressed, and 70% feel that they have no time to themselves.
As we all strive to deal with these issues, particularly as the number of Americans with Alzheimer's is projected to rise to 13 million by 2050
[PDF], there's a growing need to create what we at CPI call a Dementia Capable Society
—a society that supports both people who have Alzheimer's and dementia as well as their families.
A big thing we stress for family caregivers is how important it is to prioritize taking care of yourself
. You deal with an array of emotions when caring for a person with dementia or another illness, so it's vital to relax, share your feelings with a friend, and make time to do things you enjoy. Be sure to ask for the help of your spouse, a friend, or another family member when you need it. You can also find support groups and other resources through your local Alzheimer's Association
Recently, The Washington Post
held caregiving forums
in Chicago and Seattle to address how to help families that struggle with juggling work, child rearing, and caring for a family member with a condition like Alzheimer’s. Panelists included geriatrics expert and family caregiver Dr. Cheryl Woodson, who spoke about how we can care for caregivers, and a researcher from RUSH University Medical Center, who spoke about the filial piety that requires people in Chinese and other communities to take care of their parents at home as they age.
Check out Caregiving: A Special Report
for interviews and videos on the importance of supporting family caregivers, planning for aging parents’ changing needs, and viewing the elderly as a resource that can help support their peers.
Also read "What Every Dementia Caregiver Must Know"
and learn how training
can help professional caregivers provide exceptional dementia care.