Sue read then re-read the second sentence of the letter she’d received: “As your mom’s caregiver, we want to ensure we provide you with the support and resources you need.”
Caregiver? Sue thought about her 72-year old mother who lived alone, still drove, had a mild heart arrhythmia but no other serious ailments, and still had her wits about her. Her mom didn’t need a caregiver and Sue certainly wasn’t acting as her caregiver. Sue doubted she was even caregiver material.
Sure, she checked in on her mom and made sure she was taking her medications, and that she didn’t accidentally leave the stovetop gas on. And, yes, she helped her mom with minor tasks like learning how to operate her new smartphone, reset her Wi-Fi, schedule doctor’s appointments, or hiring people to complete small projects in and outside the home. But those things weren’t caregiving; she was just being a helpful daughter.
According to the letter she’d received from the non-profit senior advocate organization, it was more than that. Sue was indeed a caregiver.
The not-so-new face of caregiving
All over the country, family members, volunteers, and others who are able are devoting more of their time, energy, and even finances to assist in small or large ways to the care of an aging parent or senior.
According to ElderHelp, a San Diego organization that provides personalized services and information to help seniors remain independent and live with dignity in their own homes, there are over 44 million family caregivers providing unpaid assistance and support to older adults. Many of these individuals don’t even realize they are caregivers. They assume caregiving means their loved one is either extremely weak and frail, is suffering from a serious disease and in need of major care by a licensed healthcare professional, or is in need of services that only a paid professional can provide.
This is not the case at all. Caregiving can come in many shapes and forms. It simply means you’re taking on a portion, a majority, or all of the concern, assistance, and responsibilities of caring for another person.
A couple of examples of caregiving for a senior include:
- Helping with grocery shopping
- Funding all or part of digital services or entertainment accounts like cell phone service, an Amazon shopping account, or entertainment streaming services
- Assisting with transportation, either in person or virtually
- Coordinating doctor’s appointments
- Paying for all or part of necessary expenses
- Managing or providing assistance with financial management
- Providing handyman assistance for odd jobs around the house that an aging parent can’t do anymore
- Helping with tech setup or education
- Re-arranging your schedule or life to accommodate for day-to-day or emergency needs of an aging parent
OK, I’m a caregiver…now what?
Your duties as a caregiver may be small, or perhaps the person you’re caring for experiences a serious health setback and needs even more care. The best thing you can do is stay educated.
Reading helpful articles, attending events or seminars, and even surrounding yourself with others who share your experiences can be super helpful as you embark on your caregiving journey. You never know what kind of support or resource you’ll need – or even what’s available to you – if you don’t do a little research.
Organizations like ElderHelp as well as helpful blogs and caregiver support groups in your area are invaluable.
Remember that what you’re doing, caring for another person, is work, even if it doesn’t seem like it. That means you may struggle with feelings of guilt, resentment, exhaustion, doubt, or stress. These are normal. Feeling this way doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad caregiver, it simply means you may be reaching a point of overwhelm.
In the event you do start to feel overwhelmed, check with your local healthcare facilities, religious organizations, or even independent living facilities. They should have a list of resources, in-person support groups you can attend or online groups you can join that will put you in touch with other caregivers and professionals.
Learning from and connecting with others who are or have been in your shoes can do a world of good. Be sure to take advantage of this, especially for all the good you’re doing in the world.
Cuida Health is a leader in adapting voice-first technology for seniors. Our mission is to help older adults avoid the isolating effects of aging in order to live active and independent lives. We specialize in creating conversational personalities for consumer voice-assisted devices that help seniors expand connections with friends and family, stay socially active and focus on both their emotional and physical health.