November is for Thanksgiving - and caregiving, too - Albuquerque Journal

November is for Thanksgiving – and caregiving, too

As we entered Thanksgiving week, millions of us are traveling to our hometowns, attending a gathering with friends, or hosting the traditional celebration filled with hugs, stories and remembering why we are together.

And many of us will fix a plate of delicious food for someone who needs our help.

Yes, let’s be thankful we are caring for an aging relative, a cousin recovering from surgery or a youngster under the weather. Such obligations are unwritten, but included as part of being a family.

And, while it is Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season, it’s also November, which is National Family Caregivers Month, Home Care and Hospice Month, Alzheimer’s Disease Month, and Long-term Care Awareness Month.

We can’t overlook the fact most of us will become a caregiver at some point in our lives. More than a fifth of U.S. adults have reported being a caregiver in the past year.

But a look at the data about caregiving is eye-opening. The average duration of a caregiver’s role is four years, with almost a fifth of all caregivers providing care for less than a year, for more than five years, or for more than 10 years.

Family caregivers spend an average of more than 20 hours per week providing care, and almost a quarter of these caregivers spend more than 40 hours per week providing care.

It is never easy to be a caregiver. The role comes with enormous social, financial, psychological, physical and emotional burdens.

Here are a few facts and tips to remember as you continue your journey in the role of a caregiver.

  • Understand your caregiver role: The vast majority of caregivers, 85%, care for a relative or other loved one; more than one-third care for a parent; 15% care for a friend, neighbor, or other non-relative; 14% care for a child; 7% care for a parent-in-law; 7% care for a grandparent or grandparent-in-law. Some caregivers are simply financial contributors, while others are involved in helping with daily chores. Defining your role will help you understand your boundaries, liabilities and obligations.
  • Seek financial advisors to help plan, and educate yourself about financial status, liabilities, assets, mortgages and insurance policies.
  • Consult tax experts and IRS resources to review such items as income, benefits, deductions, tax credits, dependent exemptions and medical expense coverage if you provide care for a family member. At times, one also has to seek legal help on such issues as a living will/advanced directives, rights and obligations, crime and identity theft, protective services and defense of guardianship, neglect/abuse and discrimination, inheritances, real estate and consent when the person you care for cannot make these decisions.
  • Seek low-cost or free medication samples from health care facilities and doctors for those in your care, and seek assistance from community-based resources and in neighborhood facilities for meals, transportation and other social services.
  • Join a support group or find social support because caregiving can impose a burden on a person’s health; seeking support will help ensure the caregiver doesn’t end up becoming sick, which could result in greater medical expenses. This would also help avoid stress and caregiver burnout.
  • Practice healthy lifestyles, know how to set boundaries and realistic goals, be kind to yourself, and know that we all have a limit on how much we can do for others.

As we prepare for the coming celebration, take a few minutes to examine the family members, friends and other people in your life who need, or will need, assistance. It’s not easy being a caregiver, but today – more than ever – we should be thankful we can lend a hand in their time of need.

And, on Thanksgiving, give them an extra hug, say a few kind words and show them you care. Yes, it’s not easy being a caregiver, but, if we take time to prepare, we can enrich their lives and make this time together so much more rewarding.


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