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.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

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