November is National Caregivers Month. Chances are you, or someone you know, has been or will be an unpaid caregiver on a short- or long-term basis. Today, more than 1 in 5 Americans are serving in that capacity.1
According to a 2020 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 53 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult with health or functional needs during the past year. Family caregivers—whether they be families of kin or families of choice—assist with personal care, provide transportation, act as medical advocates and offer emotional support for those who cannot live
independently, and they do this while managing the demands of their personal lives, their jobs, and their families. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study found that 82% of caregivers care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults.1
Caregiving for someone with physical limitations such as a broken hip or cognitive limitations such as Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming, and caregivers frequently report experiencing high levels of stress. Common effects of caregiving include exhaustion, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and irritability. Anxiety and depression also raise the risk for other health problems such as heart disease and stroke.
When an older adult has a long-term health problem such as Alzheimer’s disease, the caregiver’s role can encompass years—or even decades. That’s why, for long-term caregiving support, I recommend a Geriatric Care Manager, usually a licensed nurse or social worker who specializes in geriatrics. The Geriatric Care Manager is like a “professional relative” who can help caregivers and their families identify needs and find ways to meet their needs. These specially trained professionals can help find resources to make your daily life easier. They work with families to form a long-term care plan and find the services they need, easing the burden on the caregiver.
The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida is a free resource to support caregivers. This nonprofit organization can connect you with local resources like Geriatric Care Managers, elder care, adult day care, housing assistance, home care, meals, housekeeping, legal assistance, and personal care. For information, call 866-413-5337 or visit www. aaaswfl.org.