November is National Family Caregiver's month, a time when we honor the more than 65 million Americans who care for their aging or disabled loved ones. Unpaid care provided by family caregivers represents 90 percent of all long-term care in America. If you are a caregiver for an elderly or disabled relative, know that you are not alone.
As a caregiver, it's important to take steps to preserve your own health and well-being:
- Stay positive and find humor in everyday situations.
- Make time for yourself.
- Get organized and make a binder for information and records you need regularly.
- Join a support group and build your caregiving team by reaching out for help through community resources or family members.
Caregiving During COVID-19
COVID-19 has added additional stress to caregivers as older adults have been urged to stay away from others as much as possible. Here are some tips for supporting your elderly loved ones when visiting them in person is not an option:
- Check in with your older loved ones often. Virtual communication can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely and isolated. Schedule a weekly telephone or video chat, send a daily text message, or check in via social media.
- Send cards and letters. Getting a letter or card from you or your children can brighten your loved one's day.
- Send or drop off a care package. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone stock up on enough food and other supplies to stay home for at least two weeks in case they are affected by COVID. Because it might be hard for older people to get to the store, put together a care package of things you know they'll need such as canned goods, over-the-counter medicines, and cleaning supplies.
- Know what medications your loved one is taking. Try to help them maintain a 4-week supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Monitor other medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence supplies, wound care, etc.) and create a backup plan if materials run low.
- Make note of special considerations for seniors in care facilities. If you have a loved one who lives in a care facility, monitor their situation and speak with facility administrators or staff over the phone. Ask about the health of the other residents frequently and know the protocol if there is an outbreak.
Juggling your work and caregiving responsibilities can be challenging. It is important to remember to take care of yourself and reach out for the assistance you need. Your Component Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available 24 hours a day to help you manage your elder care concerns.
An EAP counselor can provide you with personal support for your eldercare concerns, including:
- Referrals to state-specific programs that provide elderly residents with a variety of support services including transportation, meals, recreation, and more;
- Legal referrals for elder law concerns;
- Financial consultations to help manage financial concerns that your elderly relatives might be facing; and
- Support groups in your area for caregivers.
For more information or for help in contacting your EAP, you can reach your DHS Work-Life specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.