If we’re looking for something to unite Americans, family caregiving might be it. Every time I talk to a group of people, I ask how many of them are taking care of an aging or ill family member. At least half the hands go up, and usually it’s closer to two-thirds.
More than one in five middle-aged or older people are family caregivers, typically for a parent, but it could just as easily be for a spouse or a sibling. If you’re not in that role now, chances are you either have been or will be.
The interesting thing is, people who take care of their loved ones don’t think of themselves as “caregivers” but simply as devoted husbands, nephews, daughters, sons or friends. Over and over, I hear them underestimating the magnitude of their contribution, and overestimating their ability to handle their responsibilities single-handedly.
Helping the people we love is noble, generous and rewarding. It can also be physically demanding and emotionally taxing.
An AARP colleague who cares for her 90-year-old mother says, “Each day brings us joy, anxiety, frustration, guilt, smiles and tears.”
If I could do one thing for caregivers, it would be to persuade them to take better care of themselves. AARP is a good place to start with resources on finding respite care, connecting to other caregivers via an online support group and engaging with experts on topics most important to you.
Our caregiving campaign with the Ad Council steers caregivers to the Caregiving Resource Center. This site provides tools and information, around the clock, so caregivers can feel less isolated and take the best care of their loved ones – and themselves.
We want you to know we hear you and you’re not alone. You can turn to us.