In recent years, the older population has grown at a rate heretofore not experienced in the United States. In fact, experts predict that by 2015 the number of older Americans (65 and older) will surpass the number of younger Americans (21 and younger) for the first time in history. A longer life expectancy is one factor helping the older population swell. Although we can expect to live longer, we will all succumb to the natural aging process eventually, causing physical and/or mental deterioration to varying degrees. The sheer number of older Americans, coupled with the dramatic increase in people developing Alzheimer’s means that you will probably find yourself providing care for an older loved one at some time, if you are not already. If you are currently caring for a family member, or you know someone who is, the Month of November holds a special importance for you as it is designated as National Family Caregiver Month each year in the U.S.
National Family Caregiver Month
Each November, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association recognizes National Family Caregivers Month (NFCM) to acknowledge the millions of family caregivers who are caring for their loved ones with a chronic disease. With 2.2 million stroke family caregivers in the U.S., the AHA/ASA strives to provide the post-stroke resources, information, and recognition family caregivers need to not only help their loved one, but to find the time for self-care they often lose.
Although the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are the official sponsors of National Family Caregiver Month, you certainly do not have to be caring for someone post-stroke to be honored. As the healthcare system struggles to keep up with the demand for caregivers for Alzheimer’s sufferers, family caregivers continue to carry the load, as evidenced by the following facts and figures:
- More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s.
- Someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 66 seconds.
- 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people suffering from Alzheimer’s each year.
- In 2016, unpaid caregivers provided over 18 billion hours of care, valued at over 230 billion dollars.
How Can You Help a Family Caregiver?
Maybe you cannot be the family caregiver, but there is almost certainly something you can do to help. Nothing is too insignificant and many of the things you can do to help to not require a financial investment, such as:
- Pre-make meals. Make a dinner that can be frozen for your loved one or make dinner for the family caregiver and his/her family one night a week.
- Offer to drive or arrange transportation. Maybe you can’t stick around for the entire appointment of activity, but offer to drive or arrange for an Uber.
- Clean the house. Once a month, come in and do a thorough housecleaning for your loved one or for the family caregiver.
- Buy a gift certificate to a favorite shop. Remind a caregiver that he/she is appreciated with a $10 gift certificate to Starbucks, Target, or another favorite shop.
- Take over the finances. Offer to spend one night a month balancing the checkbook or paying the bills.
You If You Are a Family Caregiver
Caregivers frequently focus solely on the “patient” and forget to care for themselves. Try to remember that the healthier you are, physically and mentally, the more you can help care for your loved one. Toward that end, consider the following tips.
- Set limits and stick to them. You are human and, therefore, there are limits to what you can do by yourself. Accept that fact and don’t push yourself past your limits.
- Schedule hours/days off every week for yourself. Everyone needs time to recharge. Schedule this time and stick to it because you won’t be any good to anyone if you are run down and exhausted.
- Make lists. By organizing your calendar, it helps you stay on task and avoid wasting time.
- Prepare a Care Plan. Although time-consuming at first, it will save time once completed. When leaving your loved one in the care of someone else, reviewing a completed Care Plan should take only a few minutes.
- Find a support group. They are not difficult to find. Locate one and lean on the people in the group who are going through the same thing you are.
- Just say YES. This can be the hardest thing of all! When anyone offers to help in any way, accept the offer or say thank you or, if what they’ve offered to do isn’t something you need, suggest an alternative that would help.
- Consider paying yourself. Check Medicaid programs in your state. You may find that they offer the option to pay a family member who is providing care. If your loved one qualifies, you may be able to participate in one of those programs, allowing you to accept some financial compensation for your caregiving functions without taking money directly from your loved one who may not have any to spare. Accepting compensation often helps ease the financial burden your caregiving may have placed on your own family.
Contact Oklahoma Elder Law Attorneys
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have questions or concerns regarding elder law issues, contact the experienced Oklahoma elder law attorneys at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 or 913-385-9400 to schedule your appointment today.