Taking care of yourself and your nuclear family is not always easy. Add the need to take care of an aging and ailing parent or family member and the stress can become overwhelming. I know this first-hand.
My husband and I suddenly needed to move one of our parents into our home when he could no longer safely live alone. This was absolutely the right thing to do. But it was also very hard to manage his care and keep him safe while taking care of our two young children and somehow managing to keep up with our full-time jobs (we are both physicians).
Many Americans find themselves similar situations. According to some estimates, more than 40 million adults in the United States care for older or sick adult relatives or friends on a regular basis. AARP has estimated that these family and friends provide up to $450 billion worth of care. The responsibility often falls on family members, because long-term care outside the home can be very expensive and most Americans can’t afford private long-term care insurance that might cover these costs. Regular health insurance, or Medicare, does not pay for the kind of regular daily care many adults need later in life.
A new ad campaign sponsored by AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) and the nonprofit Ad Council wants caregivers to know that they are not alone and that help is available. The goal of the ads is to raise awareness of the effects that family caregiving can have and to help people find the resources they need to reduce the stress.
Caring for caregivers
The ads deliver several key messages:
- You are not alone.
- Help is available. The AARP websitelists numerous caregiver resources with information on:
- Support groups
- Legal assistance
- Resources in your area, such as programs, housing or other care providers
- Take care of you. The best caregiver is a healthy caregiver. Learn to manage the sometimes overwhelming stress that can come with caring for another person. A support group can help. If you can, take a break. Many assisted living programs offer “respite” care. This means that for a fee, your family member can stay in an assisted-living facility for a short period of time. That way, you can rest and recover.
- Plan for your own future. Most of us do not plan for the time when we, too, might need help. Think about what would be important to you should you need help one day. And consider if long-term care insurance is right for you.
With our aging population, more of our older and frail family members are going to need help. Many of us may feel “sandwiched” between caring for our elderly family members and our young children, while we keep up a happy relationship with a spouse or perhaps keep up a job. Like our family, you may not know where to turn.
This ad campaign is a start. It’s a reminder that you are not alone, that it is not easy, and that it’s okay to ask for help.