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Jan 26

Caring for caregivers

Posted on January 26, 2019 at 12:45 PM by Katie Combs Prichard

It’s the season of giving, but I wanted to devote some time to focus on a very special form of giving: caregiving.

Placer County residents are aging – and aging fast. The number of adults age 65 and older grew 127 percent here from 2000 to 2017. This is a higher share of elderly residents than the state or the nation at large. This “silver tsunami,” as it’s sometimes known, has a lot of implications for society: our workforce, our healthcare system and beyond. It is also going to generate an even greater need for caregivers.

Many adult children choose – for various reasons, whether financial or personal – to take on the responsibility of caring for parents or other loved ones in their old age. Elderly spouses also frequently play the role of caregivers for their partners. These loved ones may be suffering from dementia, and caring for them can be difficult. Caregivers face a host of physical and emotional challenges, from lifting up someone to get them changed, to being the target of misplaced anger about a loss of independence. Oftentimes caregivers can neglect their own needs and face stress and burnout.

There are a few things that can help ease the experience for caregivers. The first is getting a clear picture of your loved ones situation: their diagnosis and prognosis, their financial and legal status, and their insurance. For example, you may discover that the person you’re caring for may qualify for In-Home Supportive Services (learn more at placer.ca.gov/ihss), or may be eligible for other assistance through their insurance that can make life easier.

Caregivers should also take steps to protect their own health. Making sure to give yourself time to eat healthy meals, exercise and rest is crucial. And when it comes to mental health, look for local support groups on the Network of Care website (placer.networkofcare.org), and connect with a counselor who has experience with caregiving issues. It’s also important to find a backup, someone who can step in and assist to give you a break so that you can rest and recharge. This can be family or friends, but also professionals.

Setting boundaries and knowing your limits will help you not get overwhelmed. But if you do – don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. There are many more resources available on the AARP’s website at aarp.org/caregiving.

And for families who haven’t quite reached the point of needing caregiving yet, the new year is a good opportunity to start planning for the future, talking through the options with mom, dad or grandpa. Having these conversations early can be hard but it truly helps to have everyone on the same page and prepared.

Be Well,
Rob

Dr. Rob, Robert Oldham, is Placer County’s public health officer and lives in Roseville. Contact his office at (530-889-7141.