The Toll of Caregiving

Elderly Care

Elderly Care (Photo credit: DonMarcoCaballero)

2011 was a tough year for my family.  Within eight months, my maternal uncle was diagnosed with and succumbed to thyroid cancer.  Meanwhile, he was my grandmother’s primary caretaker.  As my uncle’s health deteriorated, my mom – a college professor – needed to step-in and manage both her brother’s and mother’s care.  Observing this process – and helping my mom the best I could – was eye-opening.  Since then, I’ve had numerous conversations and read countless articles related to the toll of caregiving.

According to the American Society on Aging:

  • Nearly one out of every four U.S. households – roughly 22 million – provide caregiver services to a relative or friend over the age of 50
  • 40% of caregivers are also raising children
  • 64% work full or part time

Research shows that being a caregiver takes a toll. According to the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), female caregivers relinquish time and energy, often sacrificing their own financial stability:

  • Household incomes are 15% lower than that of other families
  • Nearly half have little-to-no savings
  • Are 2 ½ times more likely to live in poverty

In addition, people caring for an ailing spouse or parent are more likely to:

  • Have poor eating habits
  • Skip (their own) doctors’ appointments
  • Suffer from a lowered immune system
  • Age prematurely
  • And as many as 70% show signs of depression

The National Family Caregiver Support Program calls for all states, working in partnership with area agencies on aging and local community-service providers to have five basic services for family caregivers:

  1. Information to caregivers about available services
  2. Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to services
  3. Individual counseling, organization of support groups, and caregiver training to caregivers in making decisions and solving problems relating to their caregiving roles
  4. Supplemental services, on a limited basis, to complement the care provided by caregivers
  5. Respite care to enable caregivers to be temporarily relieved from their caregiving responsibilities

There are only four kinds of people in the world –

1. Those who have been caregivers

2. Those who currently are caregivers

3. Those who will be caregivers,

4. And those who will need caregivers.

                                                                                                            – Rosalynn Carter, Former First Lady

Knowing the importance of caregiving – what services are available in your community?

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In my role as Project Specialist, I manage numerous virtual trainings and in-person meetings with an excellent track record of organizing and executing seamless events. I am a Wide Angle Youth Media Board Member, a non-profit organization that provides Baltimore youth with media education to their own stories, and serve as the Business Advisory Committee Chair. Read more.