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Finding Trusted Support for Caregivers

There are over 50 million informal caregivers in the United States providing care for an ill or disabled adult 20 years or older. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, a caregiver is generally defined as "anyone who provides assistance to someone else who is, in some degree, incapacitated and needs help." While the definition of a caregiver is simple, its meaning is broad and can affect every facet of the caregiver's life.

The level of care depends on the need of the care recipient. It can be as simple as running occasional errands or as complex as assisting the loved one in eating, bathing and other essential daily tasks. A caregiver may also deal with attorneys and speak with health care providers to be fully informed and able to assist in making decisions regarding the care of a loved one.

Many caregivers have their own households, families and jobs. Balancing these responsibilities can be stressful. Caregivers often become depressed and isolated, which leads to poor health and inability to care for others. Caregiving can be daunting, but there are many local and national resources available to guide caregivers through virtually every challenge they might encounter, including caring for and supporting themselves.

Finding trustworthy sources isn't as difficult as it seems. Great places to start include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, public health and mental health departments, and medical boards affiliated with area hospitals. Doctors and faith-based agencies have knowledge of reputable organizations, such as support groups or psychologists, and other counseling services. If the love one you're caring for has a specific condition, organizations such as Alzheimer's Association or National Parkinson Foundation have useful information. You can also reach out to home health and respite care companies for advice and assistance.

Caregiving can be one of the most rewarding, yet challenging, endeavors you may ever encounter. As a caregiver, it is important to realize you are not alone. If you are a full-time caregiver, seeking respite care is important. Whether you seek help from other family members or a home health care company, allowing yourself time away from your duties -- time for you -- will only help you become a better care provider. With a little research, you can find trusted help and resources to make your job easier and worthwhile. Take advantage of assistance available in your area and give yourself not only the knowledge, but also the power, to provide the best quality care for your loved one and also for yourself.

Resources:
Caregiver Action Network

Comfort Keepers®. Support for Family Caregivers. Retrieved on October 31, 2010, from comfortkeepers.com/family-education-center/supporting-family-caregivers

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