November is National Family Caregivers Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
With the increase of the aging population in America, rising health care costs, and trends in health care, the need for family members to care for a loved one with long-term illness is great.
According to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 29 percent of the U.S. population, or more than 65 million people, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for that person.
Informal caregivers are a valuable resource for the care recipient and the entire healthcare system. But caregivers must understand that they risk experiencing burnout. They must be proactive about taking care of their own health. Caregivers who are overburdened and stressed are at increased risk for poor health, depression and abuse.
The key to managing caregiver stress is to recognize the warning signs including often feeling overwhelmed and tired or losing interest in enjoyable activities. Caregivers must develop positive coping mechanisms such as taking time for themselves and participating in respite activities.They must make their own health a priority and see their physicians regularly, eat well, exercise and get adequate sleep.
Caregivers should join a support group, which can be useful in gaining valuable information about caregiving and financial and social resources. Caregivers can also benefit from reaching out to their local Area Agency on Aging, which is designated in each New Jersey county as the primary entity serving as a community based resource for older adults, individuals with disabilities and their caregivers.
If you are a family caregiver, take time to honor National Family Caregivers Month by reflecting on how you can take better care of yourself, which in the long run will make you a better caregiver for your loved one.
To find out more about managing caregiver responsibilities, go to: The National Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org
or the State of New Jersey Department of Health and Human Resources website at http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/saaaa.html
Aneesha Jean M.S.N., RN is a nursing instructor at Caldwell College. She was previously a clinical instructor at The Valley Hospital and taught gerontology for the Hohokus LPN Nursing Program. She served as director of wellness services and field nurse supervisor at the non-profit HomeCare Option. She has been a community health educator and has provided trainings on health promotion and wellness for various groups. Aneesha has also worked at high schools in Passaic County teaching students the importance of good nutrition, exercise, and chronic disease prevention.