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What it takes to be a Caregiver?

By Beverly Mahone

Many baby boomers are finding themselves in a rather unique position these days.  In addition to raising and taking care of our own children, many of us are now finding ourselves in the role of caregivers for our aging parents.  For that reason, we are being labeled as the sandwich generation.  

I am a baby boomer who is dealing with two aging parents.  My 85-year-old mother is in a nursing home after suffering a stroke several years ago.  My 88-year-old mother-in-law is also in a home care facility and in the latter stages of Alzheimer's.  On top of that, I am raising my teenage daughter.

Being a caregiver can be overwhelming at times because you may feel like you're being pulled in many different directions.  You may also feel like you have no time for yourself and no one appreciates what you're doing.

Here are some statistics released by Eldercarelink:

    * Female caregivers outnumber males by 6 to 1 and report more emotional and physical impact due to care giving than their  male counterparts, but in other ways male and female respondents are very similar.

    * Forty-one percent of all caregivers actually live with the care recipient.

    * Most caregivers are married with some college education and have children who are grown and no longer living at home.

    * Nearly one third provide more than 40 hours of care per week, and 57% say they very rarely or never take time off from their care giving duties.

    * As a result of their responsibilities, some 60% of all caregivers report their health has deteriorated since they began providing care, and 69% describe feeling overwhelmed by care giving.

Here are some tips on how to get through the tough times as a caregiver:    

caregiver

  1. Have Patience:  Caring for an aging, cantankerous parent can be a major challenge because there will be times when you want to pull your hair out.  There will be times when you want to give up but if you can just keep remembering the fact that you are doing something good for others, that burden you feel will eventually subside.
  2. Be Understanding:  If you have the responsibility of taking care of an aging parent, remember this:  You are doing the exact same things that your parents did when you were a baby.  They clothed and fed you.  They bathed you and changed your dirty diapers.  They did this because they loved you.  It is the same concept in reverse and even though they may not be able to express it, they appreciate it—-just as you did.  
  3. Educate Yourself:  Take the time to read up on the illness your family member is dealing with.  A condition like Alzheimer's is tough because you literally see your loved one deteriorate right before your eyes in a relatively short period of time. But you owe it to yourself to become educated on the symptoms so you will know how to react in the different circumstances.  You should also be in close contact with the treating physician.  
  4. Give Hope:  Even if the medical prognosis is not good for your loved one, it's up to you to maintain a positive attitude and spirit.  Give your loved one hope instead of doom and gloom. Make their remaining days/months/years memories that you can reflect back on with a smile.          
  5. Be a little selfish: Caring for aging parents can be both a difficult challenge and a rewarding experience, strengthening family bonds. But it's stressful. Emotions such as anger, guilt, grief and anxiety are normal. Don't forget to also take care of yourself. “Caregivers often let their own health deteriorate or their stress level becomes high,” says Trudy Lieberman, author of Consumer Reports' Complete Guide to Health Services for Seniors. ” Lieberman advises caregivers to ask for help or accept help when it's offered by friends or people in the church or community.

It is estimated that by 2030 the United States will need between 5.7 million and 6.6 million caregivers. Which side of the fence will you be on?

Beverly Mahone is a veteran journalist and baby boomer expert who writes about issues affecting her baby boomer generation.  She is also author of the book, Whatever! A Baby Boomer’s Journey Into Middle Age.  In addition to being a featured writer for Fabulously40.com, she has also appeared on MSNBC-TV and been featured in the NY Times. Her website is: http://www.enjoyyourmenopause.com


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Linni wrote Jun 23, 2010
    • what a great post! thank you!

      i was the care taker for my momma and step dad while raising my 2 younger children.. when my stepdad passed away in feb, i moved momma to my home ( because i was still staying with them, while my home set empty.. ) i was exhusted and still am.. momma passed away in april, and i became sick and was hospitalized a week later..would i do it again? in a heartbeat! there was alot of quality time, healing time, and just enjoyed being here with them!

      heartheart



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