There has always been a question of how to balance your life as a caregiver. No matter what type of caregiver, whether it’s a parent, child or family member with Alzheimer’s, Autism or Depression, the role is for the most part an unpaid one.
*There are an estimated 43.5 million unpaid caregivers in the US. Most are tending to a relative and nearly a quarter report that their health has suffered under the strain. The total estimated economic value is high, estimated at $470 billion in 2013.
*Women give up an estimated $324,000 in earnings on average; men lose $284,000.
*Female caregivers are more likely to stop working (12% vs. 3% for men) or take a less demanding job.
*Single women caring for their family members are 2.5 times more likely than non caregivers to live in poverty in old age.
*Scientists have found that culture, gender and relationship dynamics can help explain why some people fare better than others when caring for someone in need.
*Respite programs, counselors, peer support groups and interventions can all help caregivers manage the challenges of their role.
*(Scientific Magazine, Nov. 2016).
In this age of advanced technology, there still isn’t anything that can take the role for a caregiver. Human touch, compassion, empathy; these cannot be substituted. “It takes a village” can be applied here. In the many studies reported in this article, age, gender and race all played a part in how well the caregiver managed their circumstance. Where technology has been and will be exceedingly helpful is allowing access to websites related to each caregivers situation.
There are websites for Autism (www.autismspeaks.org), Alzheimer’s,(www.alz.org) Depression, Schizophrenia (www.nami.org) and more. Speaking to others (via email or phone) in similar situations provides a release of tension and stress. It allows a sharing of ideas, therapies and relaxation techniques.
It brings to light just how many people are in this situation and how many more will be very soon.
As I age and both my parents and my husband's parents are reaching their eighties, having help from the community will be necessary. Practicing mindfulness, meditation, eating well and exercising will be key to maintaining good health and disposition. When the time comes for us, and it will come for most everyone eventually, reaching out and having a human connection can make the difference on how well we each manage our caregiving.