It’s that time of year when millions of families begin enjoying new scents from the kitchen, excitement and anticipation from the children, and the sights and sounds of celebration and merriment coming from multiple directions.
But, all the hustle and bustle of the holidays may be especially difficult for those caring for a loved one who is almost totally dependent on them. In fact, about 42 million people around the U. S. are totally or partially responsible for a family member who is older, sick, disabled or otherwise dependent on them for daily tasks. But, during the busyness of the holidays, the challenges of caregiving can be much greater as visitors, obligations outside the home, and family activities escalate.
At least 21 percent of African-Americans are among these caregivers (one in five), many who still work jobs and some who have had to leave jobs to care for a loved one, according to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
There is often no roadmap for the new level of responsibilities. And because caregivers don’t see themselves as caregivers, per se – but rather as sons, daughters, spouses and relatives doing what families do – they may feel lonely, isolated; even confused.
That responsibility is often doubled as more than half of African-American caregivers find themselves caught between caring for an older person and a younger person or child. Juggling those divergent tasks during the holidays may seem impossible without help. Yet, their natural love, care and sense of responsibility may prevent these family members from asking for help.
So, what is available to them when they need guidance or when they simply need – and deserve – a break? AARP recognizes the selfless commitment and the difficulties of the task of caregiving – emotionally, socially and economically. We are here to provide the tools, information and support that will enhance care of the loved ones and the caregivers.
Information is indeed power. Here’s help that’s readily available:
- Go to aarp.org/caregiving to find the tools you need to help care for yourself and the ones you love.
- The AARP Caregiving Resource Center provides opportunities to join an online community of caregivers, learn about local services, and connect with others who understand what you’re going through. Just click on www.aarp.org/caregiving.
- Check on workplace policies that support employee caregivers. Many employers have programs that enable caregiving workers to continue their duties and enhance productivity.
- Also, employers may provide flexible scheduling for employees caring for loved ones as well as referrals to community resources and affordable back-up care.
- Affordable and reliable adult day care is also available. Go to Eldercare.gov for guidelines on how these services can give you comfort that your loved one is being cared for while you’re at work.
The stats show that if you aren’t currently a caregiver, you either have been or will be one at some point – whether caring for someone at home or in a nursing home. If that time comes, go to AARP.org/caregiving to get the understanding and information you need.
Whether during the holidays or throughout the year, caregivers often appear to be miracle-workers in all they do for their families. Though it can be an all-consuming experience that leaves the caregiver exhausted, it can also be an enormously meaningful accomplishment that deserves many thanks.