My mom is my hero. She has always been a happy and independent person, but now, as she faces new health challenges that are rapidly changing, and I can only imagine how much she is suffering. My dad is her primary caretaker; my brothers and I are helping as much as we can.
For us, as Latinos, it is our duty to take care of our loved ones, and often this sense of responsibility leads us to do everything on our own. At times, I've had to argue with my dad for him to allow me to help in my mother's care because of the deep sense of responsibility he feels. Since I am not living in the same city as my mom, I find myself feeling guilty that my other obligations are not allowing me to be with her every day.
My family is a good example of many Latino families that care for a loved one. We accept this responsibility with humility, and even with a sense of joy for being able to help them, but we tend to hide the negative effects these responsibilities can have on our emotional, physical and financial health. Although my dad is not currently facing the health challenges my mom is dealing with, I still worry about the emotional and physical toll being my mom's primary caregiver might take on him, particularly since I know he will not ask for help.
If you are not caring for a loved one today, chances are that at some point you will be. Often times, caregiving responsibilities come on slowly, and we do not even realize when we have become caregivers. When you are caring for a loved one, your tasks may include doctor visits, shopping, domestic chores, cooking and administering medications.
As family caregiving becomes more prevalent around the nation, everyone must realize the importance of reaching out for help and that plenty of resources are available. Caregivers can't do a good job of caring for someone else if they jeopardize their own health or financial stability by ignoring stress and their own personal needs.
That's why AARP and the Ad Council recently launched a national public service advertising campaign - both in Spanish and in English - to let the 42 million+ family caregivers across the nation know that support and resources are available; that AARP 'hears you,' and you are not alone. Our goal is to provide information to caregivers regarding medical, financial and legal matters, while providing them the opportunity to connect with other people going through similar situations.
By visiting www.aarp.org/cuidar in Spanish and www.aarp.org/caregiving in English, visitors are taken to AARP's Caregiving Resource Center - Centro de Recursos Cuidando a los Nuestros.
This website connects caregivers to a wealth of resources, including a toll-free caregiver support hotline, available 9am-5pm ET, Monday through Friday (1-877-333-5885 in English or 1-888-971-2013 in Spanish).
I encourage you to visit the site and share the information you find with your friends and family, just as I'm doing with you right now. As we continue to evaluate my mother's health, I have learned three important things:
- It's okay to ask for help.
- It's important to take time to learn about and utilize the resources at your disposition
- And finally, in order to take better care of your loved one, you need to take better care of yourself
(Photo Credit: AARP)