Many of us who have been family caregivers - and there are legions of us - tend to think of a daughter who lives near her parents as the primary caregiver, and this stereotype is frequently on target.
However, included in these numbers are male caregivers, whether they are sons, husbands or fathers of disabled children, as well as spousal caregivers, male and female, loyally caring for their beloved life partner, either in the home or in a care facility.
Let's not forget those who work in the physically and emotionally demanding field of professional caregiving, whether they work for an in-home agency, an assisted living facility, a nursing home, a hospice or as an independent caregiver. Geriatric social workers, speech therapists, physical and occupational therapists, eye doctors and dentists can also be added to the list.
Geriatricians, who are doctors specializing in the care of elders, don't get the high pay of surgeons and other specialists. Many of these people, as well as their nurses and other staff, chose their work because of a passion for senior care, rather than for the monetary rewards. In November, we celebrate all of these folks who are caregivers to our vulnerable elders.
Looking for Help
Generally speaking, it's the family caregivers, male and female, who struggle the most. They need help, but can't figure out where to get it, how to pay for it, and/or how to get their elders to accept it.
The Internet has helped family caregivers enormously. Since support from people who have walked our path is such a human need, people often go online to sources such as www.ouralzheimers.com, www.medicare.gov, and www.alzfnd.org. There, they can find others with the same, or similar, concerns as they have.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America provides a wonderful way to connect with other caregivers via telephone through Care Connection. Care Connection is a free teleconference designed for both family caregivers and professional caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses. These teleconferences are a valuable mix of coaching, guest speakers, questions and answers, and helpful sharing. Please consider taking part in one of these calls. Look for Care Connection on the AFA Web site (www.alzfnd.org). The phone number is (877) 232-2992.
Try your state Web site for local help. First find your state's official Web site. Then, type "aging" in the search box. This should bring you to a list of links offered by your state. Through this process, you should be able to find the name of the agency that locally offers some federal help for caregiver respite.
The National Family Caregiver Support Program
The National Family Caregiver Support Program is a nationwide project. Even though the funding is federal, each state chooses what to provide. Your state may even have a different name for the program, but it should be similar enough to the national name that you can figure it out. Most of the time, these folks can help you with abundant information, as well as support group contacts and funding leads. I've heard many people say that they don't know what they would have done without their NFCSP contacts.
The State Respite Coalition at http://archrespite.org can provide you with information on different respite programs. Not all states are listed here, but many are. Living At Home/ Block Nurse programs help many people, especially in small communities. You can go to the Elderberry Institute site for information on this project.
Adult Social Services in your county can also be helpful, however they are generally swamped with welfare checks and other serious issues, so if your need isn't that dire, you may want to try your local non-profit social services organizations that you can find in your phone book. The point is, caregivers, you aren't alone. I know that sometimes you feel alone. I know I have. But you aren't, you really aren't.
This month celebrates the hard work you do, mostly out of love. I'd put paid caregivers into this category as well, considering that many of these people could make more money, for less work, in other jobs. We as caregivers need to lean on each other as we travel the caregiving road. This month, we can celebrate ourselves, and our fellow caregivers, and raise awareness about the invaluable services we provide. Blessings to you all.
Published On: November 13, 2010