Being a family caregiver, especially to aging senior loved ones (or even not loved ones), is often described as rewarding and exhausting, confusing and frustrating, a joy and a burden.
The National Family Caregivers Association, AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving report there are more than 65 million people in the US, which accounts for 29% of the population caring for disabled, chronically ill and older family members. The value of the care provided by family members was valued at $375 million for 2009.
Caregivers are estimated to be 66% women with men acting as primary caregivers quickly on the rise. More than 37% of the women have children or grandchildren under 18 years old living with them and find themselves the middle layer of a triple decker sandwich. In addition, 51% of care recipients live in their own home, 29% live with their family caregiver, and 4% live in nursing homes and assisted living.
We have explored in our video You Might Be a Family Caregiver the reality that so many people don’t look upon themselves as being a caregiver but merely doing the things they know will help their family members.
One Family Caregiver’s Brave & Truthful Story
Recently I read a new book entitled Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir, which was written by family caregiver Martha Stettinius. In the book she details her journey, caring for her mother afflicted with dementia. The story covers the changes in their relationship, her caregiving experiences, her learning not only about the disease and its treatments but also how to best deal with the change in her mother by the disease, how she navigated the maze of options and financial difficulties encountered and faced the unexpected alterations in the woman she knew and loved.
I found this to be a moving story about how she achieved a greater and deeper respect for the woman her mother has become and came to understand the woman she was all along. Another interesting aspect about this book is the way Ms. Stettinius intertwined the mental and physical changes in each stage of Alzheimer’s disease with her approach to her mother so that readers struggling with the same challenges might be able to improve their own journey. Her brave and truthful story of both the mistakes made and successes celebrated as well as how she struggled to maintain balance in her own family caring for her children with the support of her spouse will help others as they find themselves in similar circumstances.
Family caregivers need to remember that no matter how difficult the day to day routine becomes, the number of daily duties that must be accomplished and the ongoing balancing act between work, family, kids and marriage there must be time set aside for caring for themselves. Building a strong network to help you care for your senior loved one so that you can care for yourself isn’t just a cliché but a duty so that you can be the best caregiver for your senior.
There are several books that you might want to check out in Senior Care Corner Bookstore, including the one above.