National Caregivers Day was a few days ago.
Sadly, many of us did not know. However, we don’t need a “special day” to give a positive shout-out to a Caregiver. They deserve appreciation every day of the week!
The State of Caregiving in the US
Caring for a care recipient or a loved one can certainly be rewarding, and it can be extremely stressful as well.
Nearly half of all family Caregivers (53 million unpaid caregivers in the US) say they are “somewhat stressed,” and more than a third are “highly stressed,” according to the National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP most recent report “Caregiving in the United States 2020“. This report stated:
“As our country continues to age, the need to support caregivers as the cornerstones of society will become more and more important.”
As a result of the Caregiver taking on the enormity of this job, their health is in jeopardy since they always put the care recipient FIRST.
Twenty three percent of Caregivers (~13 M Caregivers) say Caregiving has made their health worse, that it has gone from fair to poor. As you can see, these statistics are alarming!
How Can We Help?
It is important to offer any help we can. As an Occupational Therapist (OT) and chef, I began contemplating these upsetting statistics. By using my expertise, intuition, and knowledge of functional Activities of Daily Living (ADL), my focus was on improving the lives of caregivers!
Combining my love of cooking and healthy eating while being guided by my OT roots, I designed a cookbook specifically for Caregivers. The cookbook provides guides for the Caregiver to bring the care recipient into the kitchen. Whether the care recipient has neurodegenerative disorders (such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other related disorders) or not, utilizing a cooking activity can be beneficial for the Caregivers and those in their care.
Support the Tireless Work of Caregivers
- Remind them they are doing an Incredibly Valuable Job, one that is priceless.
- Let them know they are not alone and that communication support is essential. With that, encourage them to use resources to connect and share with caring family and friends. With these outlets, you can help them reduce the stress of communicating with everyone.
- Ask for mental support. Encourage them to attend support groups to cope and stay strong. Share with them the many resources that are available in local communities (check your local Alzheimer’s Organization) or through The Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregivers can even chat online with other caregivers in similar situations on AARP’s website.
- Encourage Caregivers to take a break. The time and energy demands are often overwhelming because caregiving is a 24/7 job. Set a schedule with other family members or friends to pitch in and allow them to take a few hours off to exercise, see a movie, shop, or go out for a nice dinner. They need some personal time.
- Stress the importance of their health! Set time each day to meditate or go for a walk. Help them find an exercise or activity to keep them centered.
- Remind them that their sleep is extremely important. Aim for 7-8 hours.
- Encourage healthy eating. Reduce the intake of junk food (processed/fast foods) and drink plenty of water.
- Commit to do something different. Carve out an hour one day a week to do something different from the regular daily routine with the care recipient.
Honor a Caregiver Beyond National Caregivers Day
Take a few moments to honor a Caregiver you know. Encourage them to maintain their health and wellness, because it’s so necessary in caregiving. Throughout the year, let them know they are not alone on this journey. And definitely, thank them for all that they do.
Melissa Bernstein, OT, FAOTA