A caregiver is someone who provides unpaid care for a loved one—assisting them with medical tasks or activities of daily living, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. Statistics from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP show that more than 65 million people in the United States provide care for a loved one who is unable to fully care for him or herself. That’s nearly one-third of the U.S. population. Chances are, you’re either a caregiver yourself, have a caregiver or know someone who is.
Being a caregiver can take both a physical and emotional toll. Many studies show that caregivers are at an increased risk for stress, anxiety, depression, heart disease…and the list goes on. How can you, the caregiver, minimize these health risks to better care for yourself or your loved one?
Seek out caregiver support groups.
Support groups are often helpful because you can form connections with other caregivers who have “been there and done that” – letting you know that you’re not alone. A quick online search can help you find a support group in your area; there are even online or phone groups for those who can’t make it to an in-person meeting. In the Phoenix area, Duet provides support groups for caregivers who provide unpaid care for loved ones due to aging, Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases, and a multitude of other reasons. Duet currently hosts two support groups in partnership with Iora Primary Care at their Greenway and Indian School locations in Phoenix.
Find caregiver resources.
Stumped on where to turn? Your local Area Agency on Aging may be able to help; you can find the one nearest you at www.n4a.org. Also, disease-specific resources such as your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association (find your local branch at www.alz.org) can point you in the right direction. Your primary care doctor should be able to help too. There are even hotlines that are specific to different diseases; a quick online search should help.
Fill your own cup.
It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup. Some ways to do this can include talking with your own healthcare provider to see what you need to do to make sure you’re as healthy as possible; seek out respite care if needed; take time for yourself or reconnect with a favorite hobby or activity. If you are a patient at Iora Primary Care, consider consulting with your Health Coach or your primary care provider, who can connect you to vital resources that you may not know about. Taking care of yourself is the best way to make sure you can provide the best care for your loved one – and you are worth it!
Meet the Author:
Ann Wheat serves as Director of Caregiver Services of Duet and has held this position since December 2014. Ann served as a member of the Duet Board of Directors from 1999 – 2005. Her career spans public and nonprofit sectors, with a focus on improving the quality of life for the community’s underserved members including people with disabilities, vulnerable youth, childhood cancer patients and their families, refugees, and the LGBTQ community. She retired from the City of Phoenix where she most recently served as Acting Deputy Director. Part of her work over the years included establishing adaptive recreation opportunities such as rafting trips in the Grand Canyon for people with disabilities. As a volunteer, she founded AZ Lost Boys Center, a nonprofit helping Phoenix’s Sudanese refugee war orphans. After retiring from the city after 23 years of dedicated service, Ann came to Duet, where she leads the nonprofit in its goal of helping older adults and their families cope with challenges relating to aging. Under her guidance and initiative, Duet has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of caregivers served through support groups, innovative new grant-funded initiatives, and vital referrals to community resources.