What Caregivers Want You to Know

Being a family caregiver is not an easy task.

There are numerous physical, emotional, spiritual and financial challenges in caring for an older family member.  Family caregivers will spend on average 4 to 5 years of their life caring for their loved one.

It’s a long, hard, tough job caring for a family member.  Many family caregivers report their health has gotten worse since they became a caregiver.  Elderly caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than their non-caregiving peers.  Thirty five percent of family caregivers are depressed which is twice the national average.

Why is this important to know?  Because non-caregiving peers say things that sound helpful but are really hurtful.  Comments like, “You’re so lucky to be able to care for your mom/dad.”  “It’ll get better once they get used to living in your house.  Just give it some time.”  “I don’t know how you do it.”

They don’t feel blessed or lucky because mom is always screaming at them.  Dad is constantly fighting the help the caregiver is trying to provide.  Many caregivers are in survival mode constantly going from one appointment to another.  Many are hanging on by their fingertips struggling to figure out how to keep from getting fired at work or carving out time for their own kids.

In a recent focus group here in Colorado Springs family caregivers were asked what they wanted non-caregivers to know about caregiving.  One caregiver said; “Having to drop what you’re doing in order to care for your loved one is frequent and very frustrating.”  Another said; “People don’t understand how much it takes to care for a family member.  A 3rd caregiver said; “What about me?  Everyone asks about the care receiver.  No one asks about me!”

Many caregivers feel invisible, isolated and alone.  What they need is your support.  Not your verbal support but concrete physical help.  Ask what kind of physical help they need and then offer your valuable time to complete that task for them.  It may not seem like much but it may be the difference between life and death for that caregiver.

Editor’s Note:  This article was submitted by Kent Mathews MSW.  Kent is the Care Manager for the Family Caregiver Support Center at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments-Area Agency on Aging.  He may be reached at 719-471-2096 ext. 115 or by email at  kmathews@ppacg.org.