Older adults Cover stories

Caring for the caregiver

Your well-being is important, too

Photo: CasarsaGuru/iStockphoto

Whether you’re in the grocery store, at church, or at the bank or hair salon, you’ve likely seen a family caregiver.

What do caregivers look like? Just like you. They can be a relative, a neighbor, a friend or a community member. As AARP puts it, caregivers can be “families of kin or families of choice.”

According to AARP’s 2020 report “Caregiving in the U.S.,” an estimated 53 million adults – more than 1 out of 5 Americans – serve as caregivers to a fellow adult or a child with special needs. That total is up from 43.5 million people in 2015. “

There are more and more people in this situation,” said Amy Goyer, who serves as a caregiving expert for AARP, a nonprofit organization that advocates for people 50 and older. “You can be thrown into it if your loved one has a sudden crisis or a catastrophic health event. Or, it can be gradual support over time.”

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Goyer has experienced both situations with her late parents. Her mother suffered a stroke at age 63, while her father had Alzheimer’s disease, which she called “a long, 12-year journey.”

Caregiving can involve taking on plenty of responsibility, along with the stress and pressure that comes with it.

Self-care that suits you

Providing care to a loved one can often lead people to put their own health and well-being on a back burner.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers report issues such as lack of sleep, poor diet, not exercising, working when sick, and postposing or forgoing their own medical care. “

Many people experience isolation and all the things that drain you,” Goyer said. “You may have a lack of resources and support. There’s stress and fear.”

That’s why Goyer encourages caregivers to make time to care for themselves, even if it’s just 10 minutes of exercise or relaxation. (See How to fill your tank.)

I can’t find two hours, but I can find 10 minutes,” she said.

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