WEGO Health invited Shelley Webb and me to join Amy Goyer of AARP for an informative Twitter chat about caregiver experiences, resources, and caregiver tips.
Who is a caregiver?
Amy emphasizes the common perception that caregivers don’t view themselves as such. I agree. It took me months if not years to recognize and then admit that I was indeed a caregiver. Goyer, a thirty-year veteran caregiver for her grandparents, parents, sisters, neighbors, and friends, sees caregiving’s reach extending to shopping, driving to a doctor’s appointment, and even primary hands-on day-to-day care.
Among the 42 million caregivers in the U.S. are spouses, adult and young children, siblings, neighbors and other members of the community.
Shelley Webb adds that if you sort mail, help with finances, research health issues, and/or provide personal care you ARE a caregiver!
Inspired by Jeff Foxworthy-style humor, I offered my Rx: HUMOR for Caregivers with three criteria that may label you Caregiver.
While caregivers help those who cannot help themselves, where can they go for support?
Shelley and I suggest support groups that meet online or in-person. Amy invites us to contact our local area agency on aging to find one.
Shelley and other participants remind us to ask family and friends for help. Without help, the toll on the primary caregiver is grows greater.
Another participant recommends finding reasons to laugh. (I agree, if we’re to survive and even thrive.)
Just as our cars need fuel to run, Amy draws the analogy with a caregiver trying to run on low or no energy.
Without sufficient energy to provide care, many caregivers suffer isolation spiraling into depression. One can only go so far running on fumes. Oftentimes, a related dementia strikes overwhelmed and exhausted caregivers. Caregiver dementia, a term coined in the eighties describes symptoms such as disorientation, forgetfulness, and hallucinations, striking an estimated 100 million caregivers worldwide. This leading cause of dementia (among caregivers) is the reason above the age of sixty-five die before their loved ones.
“You have made the choice to care.”
Additional topics and answers during this hour-long chat include:
What is “caregiver burnout?”
Shelley: depression, exhaustion, physical symptoms including headache, insomnia, and other pains.
How do we balance our personal and/or professional lives with caregiving?
We all agree it’s hard balancing career with caregiving and many of us transition from our careers into caregiving. We lose our friends but make new ones. We lose family members who don’t want to help, but adopt a family of choice. In other words, our commitment to caring helps us find ways to make it work. But it comes at a price. We lose income and the opportunity to build a nest egg for retirement.
Despite the struggle, are there rewards of caregiving?
We get to know our parents better.
We learn what really matters in life.
These are simply stated yet deeply felt benefits to live more meaningful lives.
What is your motivation to be a caregiver?
Read the answers at Caregiving Chat.
What caregiver tips can you offer?
Amy: Build a caregiving team whether it’s family or others willing to help.
Shelley: caregiving will end at some point. Make sure you have a life to go back to.
Brenda: Two primary caregiver tips. Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s disease or illness. Then care for another the same way I’d want to be cared for if I were living with the same disease or illness.
There’s a silver lining.
What is it?
Click to read WEGO Health – AARP Caregiver Tips Twitter Chat