Being a family caregiver can be a demanding job. According to a 2015 study released by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, the average caregiver is a middle-aged woman caring for a senior female relative, and has an additional outside paid job where she works over 35 hours a week. There are over 75 million caregivers in the United States alone, many of them spouses, children, or other relatives of the senior receiving care.
Providing uncompensated care for relatives while balancing other family obligations and full-time work can be a huge responsibility. Studies also show that the next wave of seniors – the Baby Boom generation – will have even fewer options than today’s seniors, as fewer children, higher divorce rates, and longer lifespans mean it’s more likely that they will not have nearby relatives to provide caregiving.
That makes being a caregiver today an even more heroic task. If you are
a senior caregiver – especially if you are a senior yourself caring for another – here are some tips to help you cope.
- Be organized. Having a set schedule and visible calendars and to-do lists – either on a whiteboard or via a phone app – will help keep your tasks front and center. Do the most important tasks within about four hours of waking, as this is the time of day when we tend to be most productive.
- Put your needs first. Caregivers often forget how important their own physical and emotional health is to their ability to provide care. If you are not physically and/or emotionally well, you will not be able to take care of your loved one. Make time for yourself, get up early to address your own needs, or cut back on outside obligations that don’t bring you joy.
- Ask for help. Recognize that you don’t have to take care of your loved one alone. There are many options out there for caregivers, from part-time caregivers who can come in a few times a week and help out to assisted living facilities to help your loved one be a little more independent. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your own community or social network for assistance.
As you care for you loved one, remember this quote from Rosalyn Carter: “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” We all exist somewhere on the continuum of care. Be sure you are caring for yourself as well as you are caring for your loved one.