Caregiving takes many forms – from helping a disabled or sick friend to caring for an older family member. In fact, chances are pretty good that you’re already a caregiver and not even aware of it!
Celebrated each November, National Family Caregivers (NFC) Month is a time to recognize and honor family caregivers across the country. While many of us don’t think of ourselves as caregivers, the simplest acts of kindness (such as paying a visit to help manage a family or friend’s personal care) makes all the difference for someone in need.
Who are the caregivers?
At WakeMed Home Health services, we see all ranges of people providing caregiving services. Most often, family members are supporting patients. Family caregivers, particularly women, provide more than 75 percent of caregiving support in the United States.
Caregiving can be expensive and time consuming – especially for those who provide “informal” or unpaid care to family and friends. In 2007, it is estimated that the economic value of family caregivers’ unpaid contributions was at least $375 billion. And according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP:
About 44 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid, “informal” care each year for adult family members and friends with chronic illnesses or conditions that prevent them from handling daily activities, such as: bathing, managing medications, or preparing meals on their own.
If a family member or friend is unable to be a caregiver, they can turn to most hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities for assistance. While these are all great service providers, not everyone needs this level of care because the care that they are receiving from loved ones is sufficient.
Dealing with Stress as a Caregiver
Being a caregiver is both challenging and incredibly rewarding. Depending on the level of care needed to look after a loved one, over time, caregivers can become exhausted and stressed. Part of what causes caregiver stress is the fact that most caregivers feel as though they should be able to handle their caregiving roles in addition to busy work and family schedules. However, after a while, many caregivers begin to feel guilty and depressed as they lose stamina.
Because of the likelihood of stress, caregivers need a range of support services to stay healthy while improving their caregiving skills. Support services include:
- Information assistance
- Home modifications
- Assistive devices
- Caregiver & family counseling
- Caregiver support groups
- And more
Local Resources for Caregivers in Wake County, NC
In Wake County, NC, we are fortunate to have many caregiving resources that other counties in our immediate area do not even have. For example, Resources for Seniors does an outstanding job of meeting many needs through private caregivers, from support groups and home modifications to financial counseling and adult day care programs.
In North Carolina, each county has a Department of Aging service. How they choose to use their funds is important to their population, and each county focuses on different issues.
The Center for Volunteer Caregivers is specific to Wake County, but they are an outstanding source of support for patients as well as their caregivers. They provide training for caregivers, transportation assistance, “friendly visitors,” yard maintenance, and more. The mental health services through Alliance and Care Net are also beneficial for the patients as well as caregivers. There are others, but these are the gold standard in our area.
National Resources for Caregivers
The following are links to national resources for caregivers.
- Caregiving Fact Sheets
- Eldercare Locator | 800-677-1116
- Family Care Navigator
- National Center on Caregiving | 800-455-8106 | email@example.com
As we age, it is important to consider the role of caregiving as part of your family dynamic. If you find that you are taking on a caregiving role, it is helpful to know what options are available to you for additional assistance and support. It is also incredibly important to put your health first. Remember to take care of yourself. In doing so, you’ll be better able to care for those you love.
About Susan Faircloth, BSW
Susan is a home health social worker with WakeMed.
About Jennifer McLucas-Ingold
Jennifer is the Director of Home Health Services at WakeMed.