Caregiving is a labor of love: But caregivers need care, too
By Bill Conallen
The number of Americans providing unpaid care for a loved one has increased by 21% over the past five years, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. If you’re among the nation’s 53 million caregivers, you could likely benefit from information and resources to help manage the challenges of caregiving.
Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s (PCA’s) Caregiver Support Program can help by providing unpaid, primary caregivers with a wide array of resources, including education and training, financial assistance, caregiving support groups, and respite care services.
A special spotlight is being placed on caregivers throughout the month of November, which is National Family Caregivers Month. This period of reflection marks a time to celebrate and honor family caregivers across the country. Special emphasis is placed on the need to raise awareness of caregiving issues, educate communities, and increase support for caregivers.
Caregivers provide care for someone with an injury, illness or disability. Caregiving tasks can include helping an older adult with housework, such as cleaning and laundry; bathing and dressing; financial tasks, such as paying bills; administering medication; and so much more.
The role of a caregiver can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful. That’s why it’s important for caregivers to maintain a healthy and caring environment. In many cases, caregivers need to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This may leave little or no time for caregivers to take the best care of themselves, as well as to pursue personal interests, exercise, religious services, work or school. Even some of the most seasoned caregivers can experience moments of stress that can take a toll on their mental well-being if not effectively managed.
“There is no one way to experience caregiver stress,” said Samson Baby, PCA Caregiver Support Program supervisor. “You may feel waves of emotions, from frustration to anger to helplessness. You may feel as if you are not prepared to perform the role, or that you lack adequate medical knowledge. Every situation is unique, so it is important to be on the lookout for signs of caregiver stress and to address it right away.”
Resources allocated through the Caregiver Support Program help ensure that caregivers take care of themselves, in addition to their loved ones. The education and training provided enhances caregiving skills, while alleviating stress, creating a well-rested, renewed and more informed environment. By noticing the signs of caregiving stress, caregivers can stay happy and healthy while providing the care their loved one needs.
As a caregiver himself, first for his father and now for his mother, Baby can attest to the relief that programs offered through Area Agencies on Aging, like PCA, provide. “I was spending a lot of time worrying about how to properly allocate resources toward caring for my parents,” he said. “The program has provided countless hours of relief. Some of the caregivers have spoken to me about how positively impactful the support has been.”
Baby has seen first-hand, both personally and professionally, the extent to which these services can help both caregivers and care receivers in ensuring both dignity and quality of life are maintained.
“Being a caregiver is such a tremendous investment in an individual’s time and resources,” Baby said. “It’s imperative that caregivers are equipped with as many resources as possible in order to perform their responsibilities to the best of their ability for those they love, while also taking care of themselves.”
Help for caregivers
PCA’s Caregiver Support Program provides caregivers of older adults and of adults with disabilities with emotional support, reimbursement for caregiving services and supplies, training, and benefits counseling. The program also supports adults 60-plus who are raising grandchildren or other young relatives under the age of 18. For more information, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 or go to pcaCares.org/caregivers.
Bill Conallen is PCA’s public relations specialist.