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Thank you, caregivers

“Thank you, Grandma, for taking care of me.” That child is now 23 years old. At the time he might have been 4 years old. I said to him, “I will take care of you now and when I am old and can’t take care of myself, you can take care of me. OK?”

“I will, Grandma.” He didn’t hesitate to think about it.

Caregivers may be some of the most dedicated and generous people in our lives. They step up and take care of the elderly, the ill, those who are impaired and unable to take care of themselves. They commit to helping the people they love, often the people who took care of them when they were small.

Whether it is a grandparent taking care of a young child, an adult child taking care of a parent, or a neighbor, friend or other relative taking care of someone who needs them, the caregiver is a vital part of that person’s daily life. The needs of the caregivers often are invisible, nobody recognizing that they are not taking care of themselves. There just may not be enough time for them to give thought to their self-care, often falling into bed from sheer exhaustion at the end of the long days.

“Family caregivers are the foundation of our country’s long-term support system,” advises the U.S. Census Bureau. “Every year nearly 44 million caregivers assist loved ones with a vast array of essential tasks including eating, bathing, dressing, managing finances, childcare, administering medications, and arranging doctor appointments and transportation. In performing these challenging duties with patience and compassion, family caregivers embody selfless service and sacrifice.”

The National Institutes of Health’s Library of Medicine reports that a study was made to determine vulnerable and non-vulnerable populations to determine high risks for informal caregivers. Vulnerable caregivers (36 percent) have poor health or a serious health condition. These informal caregivers (meaning they are not paid for the hours they spend care giving) were more likely to provide care or higher intensity care. They are more likely to have suffered physical health issues because they are caregivers, are age 65 or older, married, and have less than 12 years of education.

Race, advanced age, employment status and inadequate social support were cited as factors that increase the risks of unfavorable health outcomes. Though the caregiver’s care may be very good for the recipient, it often adversely affects the mental health of the caregiver with stress, strain, depression, and failing to take care of their own personal health and well being. They are at risk of an earlier death.

An estimated 15 million to 25 million adults in the U.S. provide informal care to relatives and friends, totaling an economic value of about $196 billion. It is expected that relying on family members to provide informal care will increase.

November is National Family Caregivers Awareness Month. Don’t just thank the caregivers who make it possible for you to go on with your life your way. Offer them some break time from their caregiving so they can see to their own well being as well.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org.

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