As the chill winds of November bring down the last of the fall leaves, our attention turns to preparing for winter and for the holiday season just around the corner. But November also marks National Family Caregivers Month and more than 40 million informal caregivers across the United States are providing care for aging parents and disabled or ill loved ones. These caregivers are often older adults themselves with their own health concerns; the month honoring these people who provide billions of dollars worth of care is also an opportunity for others to ensure caregivers are taking time to care for themselves.
According to 2019 AARP research, many family caregivers feel isolated, and nearly 1 in 10 said they had no one they could talk with about personal issues and 1 in 5 said they had no one to call for assistance. If you know a friend or family member caring for a loved one on their own, offering them a break or helping them find respite care is invaluable. Often informal caregivers find they struggle to take care of their own health or make time to socialize due to the burdens of daily care for a loved one. Those who are still working are stretched even thinner and many may still have children and spouses at home.
The theme of this year’s Family Caregivers Month is #BeCareCurious. To be an effective caregiver takes not only love and understanding, but it can also encompass financial management, medical advocacy as well as the demands of daily care; providing meals, assisting with bathing, scheduling appointments, cleaning, doing laundry and helping loved-ones stay socially connected. When people better understand what is involved in being a family caregiver, and the stress it can cause, friends and family are more likely to pitch in or offer their support.
Caregivers for people with dementia often experience greater levels of stress and isolation and may find it a challenge to take even a short break with the knowledge their loved one is safe. And as the elderly population continues to grow over the next 15 to 20 years, the number of people living with some form of dementia is expected to double. According to a recent CTV News report, a new Toronto-area hotel is offering a safe space for dementia patients that will provide short respite care for patients not eligible for long-term care. Memory & Company in Markham, Ontario was opened in 2015 and provides safe rooms, physical and cognitive activities, meals, and round-the-clock supervision by support staff and nurses.
To learn more about resources for family caregivers, follow this link to AARP’s Family Caregiving online community.