Due to the influx of baby boomers into the senior population, that sector is surging in many locations in the U.S. Communities located in Sunbelt locations, such as Los Angeles, are popular with our older citizens because of the pleasant climate. As age increases, so does the need for caregivers. Anyone who has served as a caregiver for a parent or other loved-one knows that it is a demanding task that has a tremendous impact on the caregiver’s life. Many deem it to be without rewards beyond the fact that they are helping someone in need; however, a new study has found that family caregivers are rewarded with an increased life expectancy. The study was led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and published online on October 15 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Overall, the care provided by family caregivers is significant. According to the Commission on Long-Term Care, these caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion in care each year. Without caregivers, the disabled and chronically individuals would languish in nursing facilities and place additional strain on state and federal governments. The researchers analyzed data on more than 3,000 family and found that family caregivers experience an 18% increase in survival, compared to non-caregivers.
Life coach Yosaif August is a committed caregiver advocate who offers advice to help individuals who find themselves in that role cope with the situation. He has recently published a book dealing with the situation: “Coaching for Caregivers: How to Reach Out Before You Burn Out.”
Although August’s book contains much more detailed information, the following six tips provide some basic information to aid caregivers:
- Let it be; where you are is where you are. Judging yourself, or comparing yourself to some ideal caregiveryou can imagine, just adds to your burdens. Accepting yourself where you are is a powerful first step in feeling your feet on the ground, seeing more clearly and then being able to do what you need to do.
- Sometimes what we need is very simple. The question, “What do you need right now?” might sound very simple but it’s not so simple for a caregiver who’s overstressed. In a calmer moment, and often with the support of a good friend, they realize that there are some things they need: a hug, a ride, walking the dog, information to be found, a group e-mail to write and send. Each of these are small things. Any one of them can create a sense of comfort, relief and new possibilities.
- Privacy is golden; learn how to set up your “privacy settings.” Caregiving is often an isolating experience. Family caregivers who are handling more than they can healthfully handle, often don’t even consider reaching out for help because they believe that reaching out means their family’s life will be intruded upon. This doesn’t need to be a barrier to getting what you need. You can set your own privacy settings by choosing who you want to be informed about what is going on and by telling people how, when and where you’d appreciate support being provided to you.
- There’s more support than you might think, especially when you use caresites. Caresites, a term I’ve coined for the newly available free websites which are easy to set up and use (Lotsa Helping Hands, Caring Bridge and CarePages). They relieve caregivers of the burden of returning hundreds of voicemails and emails by informing people about what is going on and letting people know what your family needs. They also provide a way that people can send love your way: prayers, affirmations, offers of transportation for their children and, often, delicious hot meals delivered to their doorstep.
- It’s time to remember your forgotten strengths. Your list might include resilience, assertiveness, courage, grace, tenacity, perseverance, sense of humor, equanimity? If you’ve done it before, you can do it again. These strengths may have become rusty from lack of use but it’s never to late to access them again, especially now that you need them. Draw on them now, as you would from a long–forgotten bank account. They’re yours for the taking. The obvious benefit that you can get from reaching out is that by doing so you are much more likely to get what you need - on the practical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.
- Be prepared for wondrous things to happen. The obvious benefit that you can get from reaching out is that by doing so you are much more likely to get what you need––on the practical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Beyond these, other wondrous things happen. Surprising people show up or show up in surprising new ways. New treatments and other resources appear. Prayers and blessings from strangers. These things happen to the caregivers and their families. And they happen to the people they have reached out to as well; stories abound of these helpers’ lives being transformed in the process of their stepping forward to pitch in.