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Celebrating The Caregiver Throughout The Year

Chances are you know a caregiver or are one yourself. Statistically speaking, if you’re a woman who is between the ages of 48-60 you will be a caregiver (the average age of caregivers is 51), because more than 60% of women are. Consider that close to 70 million individuals (29% of the population) in the United States are in a caregiving role and chances are you know more than one person who is providing care to an aging or disabled relative.

What can you do to help someone who is a caregiver? How do you even know if you know someone who is a caregiver? Stop and think of your friends and the age of their parents and you will likely uncover more than one friend or close relative who is in the role of giving care for an aging parent. Consider too, many of those caregivers who are in their late 40s or early 50s may still be raising their own children, working full time and caring for a senior and you likely know more than one friend or relative in that situation.

Here are some ways you can reach out to a caregiver and provide support:

  • Provide a respite: Stay with the caregiver's relative so he or she can go run some errands, grab a cup of coffee, take a walk or just simply get away from it all.
  • Planning for festivities: Offer to help decorate the house. Bring the decorations up from the basement or down from the attic. Unpack boxes.
  • Bring a meal: Did you cook "too much" food? Offer it to a friend who is in the caregiver role. Believe me there are many nights when a caregiver is so busy caring for a parent that he or she doesn’t get home until well after dinner time and will likely grab an unhealthy meal at a drive through or a snack at home. A heat and serve meal would be much appreciated by a caregiver and his or her family.
  • Do you have a friend who will be hosting Thanksgiving and is not only going to be cooking the meal, but will be going to pick up his or her aging relative? Offer to either keep an eye on the meal or better yet, offer to pick up their relative and take him or her back home after the festivities.
  • Help around the house: Are you a handyman? Can you take on some small repairs for the caregiver’s relatives? Do you have time to help with spring cleaning or plowing the snow out of the driveway or shoveling a sidewalk? Offer to lend a hand.

What can you do, as a caregiver, to take care of yourself?

  • Reach out to a friend and simply say, "I need help." Whether it's a shoulder to cry on or assistance with errands. If you don't ask, no one will know what you need.
  • Think differently about the holidays. In the past you may have been the one responsible for the entire meal spread. Step back and take on two or three of your favorite portions of the meal and ask everyone else who's coming to contribute.
  • If you need to cry, then cry. If you find you can't stop crying, then call your doctor. Caregiving is stressful and stress can lead to other health issues. Caregivers need to practice self care.

Are you a caregiver? How do you balance the tasks of your everyday life and career with caring for an aging relative?