Being a caregiver to an aging parent is one of the most challenging and overlooked jobs in this country right now. It is estimated that almost 44 million Americans provide their loved ones with unpaid care, 34 million of which are caring for adults over the age of 50. And even though it’s been estimated that these free services provided by family caregivers are valued upwards of $400 billion, it is surprisingly hard to find caregiver resources that help train, educate and support them.
Without the proper support, caregiver burnout is a strong reality for many family caregivers. In addition to caring for an aging parent, many of these adult children are also caring for their own families, navigating spousal relationships, and working full-time. With little time to dedicate to themselves, caregivers can burnout, leading to higher levels of stress and anxiety, depression, and even chronic illness.
A Strong Network of Caregiver Support
One of the best ways to avoid caregiver burnout is to ask for help when it’s needed and turn to people or technology for extra support. Caregiver support looks different for everyone; some have friends and family they can depend on, some have the ability to attend caregiver support groups, and others have to rely on technological advancements.
Whether online or in-person, finding caregiver support can validate complicated feelings, reduce the isolation of the experience, and help caregivers gain a sense of empowerment and control. If you are not sure where to start when it comes to looking for caregiver support, these organizations provide wonderful in-person and online options:
Alzheimer’s Association: Click on the interactive map to find your local chapter and find support groups in your community.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Enter your zip code or state in to find local events and caregiver support.
National Stroke Association: Input your state and name and you’ll find a list of local support groups in your community for caregivers, survivors and family members.
National Parkinson Foundation: Enter your zip code all the way at the top of the homepage to find resources in your area, or scroll down the page to learn more about their in-person and online Caregiver Summit.
American Cancer Society: Enter your zip code and city or state and then scroll down in the “Program” menu until you find a support group that applies to your specific need.
ElderCare Locator: Search by location or topic to find your local Area Agency on Aging, as well as additional local resources you can lean on for support.
Take Advantage of Caregiver Resources
Local Area Agencies on Aging, which are a nationwide network of organizations that serve older adults within their communities, are an excellent starting point when it comes to a variety of caregiver resources. Most offices within the network can inform you about free programs and services that are available to the aging loved one that you are caring for.
Underutilized caregiver resources, like the Department of Veterans Affairs and your loved one’s Medicare plan, can actually have hidden benefits that can cover the cost of certain services and can even provide financial aid to those who qualify. And if navigating all of these channels is overwhelming to you, you can hire a geriatric social worker to help you better understand your options and gain access to resources that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
Know When To Call In Backup
It’s not always possible to be there for someone round-the-clock. Caregivers tend to carry around an enormous amount of guilt, which also can compound feelings of caregiver burnout. In order to alleviate some of the stress of being a caregiver for an aging parent, consider investing in a medical alert system.
With 24/7 monitoring services and upgrades such as automatic fall detection, caregivers can sleep easier at night (and worry less during the day) knowing that their loved ones will have a direct line to help in an emergency.