Caregiving for a friend or loved one can be a life-changing experience on many levels. It may mean putting your own life on hold and it may become all-consuming. It might bring joy and quality time with your loved one, or it may bring heartache and despair at the course of events. Studies show that women are the majority of caregivers in this country, often caring for an aging parent and small children at the same time.
The responsibilities of caregiving can be complex and overwhelming. Depending on the person’s needs, you may provide emotional support, practical assistance, or communication help between the patient and the health care team.
Caregiving is a team effort. Other members include family members, friends, other volunteers and the medical team. Each will have concerns, opinions and emotions with regard to their role. Remember that it’s important for the person receiving care to have some sense of control as well. Equally important, caregivers also need respite; there are resources available to help caregivers find that help.
Where to Seek Caregiving Assistance
Family: Family members are the best place to start. Don’t hesitate to ask them how they would like to contribute to the care of their loved one. One member may be better suited for running errands while another is good at paying bills. Not everyone is willing or able to contribute the same level of care.
Friends, Neighbors, and Faith Communities: If friends, neighbors or your church ask if there is anything they can do to help, say yes and assign them a specific task. Many churches and synagogues have well-organized volunteers to provide assistance, comfort, meals and transportation. Ask a friend or neighbor to be a respite caregiver for you; everyone needs a break.
The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging. The Eldercare Locator is your first step for finding local agencies, in every U.S. community, that can help older persons and their families access home and community-based services like transportation, meals, home care, and caregiver support services. Your local Area Agency on Aging in your community can assist you.
Local Organizations, Senior Centers or Adult Day Care: The United Way and other organizations are often active in the caregiving community. In many larger cities, you can dial 211 to begin finding these resources. Our “Cast a Wide Net – Explore Your Resources” Roadmap has many more suggestions.
Our Favorite Websites for Additional Resources, Guidance and Support
Family Caregiver Alliance – National Center on Caregiving
Caregiving From A Distance (resources for long-distance caregiving)
National Alliance for Caregiving
National Family Caregivers Association
Caregiving for Cancer Patients at Cancer.net: