Family Caregiving Grows as Public Health Issue with Aging U.S. Population
Wednesday, November 03, 2021
With the U.S. population aging, family caregiving is growing as a public health issue. Of the nation’s 53 million family caregivers, nearly 42 million provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in 2020 — nearly 17% more than in 2015, according to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Caregivers themselves are aging, and more are providing care to two or more people.
“Taking care of a parent or a partner who needs help with daily living often evokes positive feelings, but it can also cause tremendous stress, especially for people who are also raising young children,” said NewBridge Services CEO Michelle Borden, a licensed clinical social worker.
Family caregivers provide physical, emotional and financial support to someone close to them with an illness or disability that prevents them from taking care of themselves. They may handle the grocery shopping, housework, meal preparation, medication management, bill paying, and personal care like helping the person shower and dress.
That’s a lot to take on. Doing it during a worldwide pandemic has only ratcheted up the logistical challenges and emotional toll, Borden said.
Seniors in Motion for Caregivers
NewBridge Services is marking National Family Caregivers Month 2021 by inviting seniors and caregivers to enjoy free virtual sessions of its music and movement program, Seniors in Motion, on Nov. 8, 15 and 22 at 2 p.m. Register here: http://weblink.donorperfect.com/seniorsinmotion. All the movements can be modified to accommodate ability, and participants receive a gift card. Contact Beth Jacobson, director of Community Outreach and Education, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 686-2242 if you have questions.
Family caregivers have higher rates of depression, anxiety and stress, and have poorer physical health than non-caregivers.
Self-Care Practices for Caregivers:
NewBridge Services suggests these self-care practices:
- Share your feelings with family and friends, and/or keep a journal
- Recruit others to help with some of the responsibilities, such as cooking and shopping
- Practice meditation (there are lots of online resources online, including this one
- Walk or do other forms of exercise daily (try three 10-minute sessions)
- Allow yourself a time-out to release your feelings
- Talk to a therapist, which can be done virtually
- Find a support group at nj211.org or United Way of Northern New Jersey
- Go for annual physicals
- Practice patience with the loved one you’re caring for, and yourself
- Don’t use alcohol or other drugs to numb feelings
NewBridge’s Senior Assistance for Independent Living (SAIL) guides families to useful services and programs available in their community, including home health aides, grocery shopping, transportation, and bill-paying. Through NewBridge@Home, caregivers can receive counseling to help them cope with their family’s new reality. Both programs are free to Morris County residents age 60 and over.
Friends and relatives can also play a role in supporting caregivers:
- Prepare a special meal, cooking enough for leftovers
- Offer to fill in for a few hours, if that’s possible
- Watch for signs of depression and recommend professional help if needed
Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care runs the Care2Caregivers helpline for people who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The peer counselors who answer calls can relate: they have cared for a family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s and have worked professionally with patients with dementia. The number is: (800) 424-2494.
The National Alliance for Caregiving is an excellent resource for caregivers, and provides links to other organizations that can help. The Family Caregiver Alliance has an extensive learning center that provides tips, facts and webinars on caregiving.
If you or someone you love needs help, call (973) 316-9333 or visit newbridge.org.