Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate. In addition to food, family and football, today is a day to show gratitude.
I’d like to give thanks to all of the caregivers, from family members to those in the care workforce. I’d like to express gratitude especially to those caregivers who feel invisible, unappreciated and overworked. You matter and you deserve more support. There are many people working hard to implement changes to better support caregivers. It’s been an uphill battle and will continue to be so, but caregiver advocates, many of us former or current caregivers, are a tough and dedicated bunch.
Let the caregivers in your life know how much their efforts mean. Thank you to all of those who have supported me on my caregiving journey, from following this blog to buying my books and sending encouraging notes and comments.
This AARP blog post is directed at employers and discusses how supporting their employees who are also family caregivers is not charity, but a smart business practice.
Not only is it a smart business practice, but it’s going to be essential over the coming years. As our population ages, more and more people will become family caregivers. 7 in 10 workers currently have some caregiving duties, according to AARP. One in four is a millennial and a growing number are even younger. Family caregiving is not an “older worker” issue but an issue that any employee can face.
One of the few bright spots in the pandemic was that in certain sectors of the workforce, strides were made in workplace and scheduling flexibility. Employees who are also family caregivers appreciated the difference that flexibility made in their quality of life. Now employers are using their fears of an economic downturn to try and force workers back into a rigid schedule and workplace locations. Some employees are rebelling, but many family caregivers have no choice because caregiving is expensive and not covered by insurance.
When family caregivers reach a breaking point, they end up leaving the workforce. That’s a loss for everyone. Employers who are concerned about having enough staffing can take steps to ensure that they are creating a support environment for family caregivers. It’s common sense that workers who have enough support to manage their family caregiving duties will also be more productive at work and more likely to remain with a company that offers such support. That makes it a win-win for all involved.
Here are some steps employers should consider to support family caregivers:
Offer a flexibile schedule
Offer remote work
Offer caregiver support programs as part of the employee health care package
Paid family leave
Making sure hiring policies don’t discriminate against older workers or those with caregiving duties
One can become a family caregiver in the blink of an eye. As the #CaregivingHappens campaign illustrates, people can face a family care crisis at any moment. One can be going through a routine day, at work or running errands, and receive the call or text that requires one to switch into caregiver mode.
By raising awareness of how many people are family caregivers and how you may encounter them throughout your day, it helps to highlight the resources they need and where there are gaps in support systems. Family caregivers must not remain invisible or taken for granted.
Do you find yourself facing a family caregiving situation for the first time? Check out these 8 Rules for New Caregivers compiled by AARP.
I recently bought a pair of shoes that left me frustrated. The soles were coated in a material that made them extremely slippery, especially on hardwood floors. I purchased them online, and I read the first page of reviews, which were mainly good. But starting on around page three, the warnings about slips and falls because of the slippery soles began. I wish I had researched a bit longer!
Both of my parents suffered from falls as they aged. My father’s dementia made him wander at night, a recipe for disaster. My mother broke her shoulder after falling off the toilet in the middle of the night. Her arm strength and range of motion decreased after that injury. But falls aren’t just a risk for older people. I myself fell at the park last year, slipping down a small slope covered in leaves. I had a sore back for days.
This odd pair of shoes made me think about how important mundane details are when it comes to caregiving, like what kind of shoes are your loved ones wearing? For loved ones who shop online, it’s worth assessing to make sure they are safe for walking on a variety of surfaces. From now on, I will pay closer attention to the soles of shoes!
In late September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers. It’s the first time such a national strategy has been proposed. While it’s long overdue, addressing the needs of family caregivers in a coordinated national effort is a positive development.
“Supporting family caregivers is commonsense, since most people will at some point in their lives be a family caregiver, need a family caregiver, or both. Caregivers are sacrificing for their loved ones and often are standing in the health care gap by providing that care,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.
Your feedback is critical to the success of the strategy. The commenting period opened Oct. 1 and will be accepting comments for a 60-day period. The strategy will be updated every two years as required by law.
I recently had the privilege of sharing my caregiving experience as member of Generation X on the Rodger That podcast.
Every generation faces its own unique challenges when it comes to the family caregiving experience. It’s difficult no matter what age you are! My parents were older when they had me so I faced caregiving duties a bit younger than most in my generation. Women especially are vulnerable to being forced to leave the workforce to provide family care, which has a ripple effect not only on one’s current financial situation, but also for retirement savings. This is what I now have to contend with as I’m way behind in saving for retirement, while also facing a risk that the government will not continue to fund Social Security at its current levels by the time I reach eligibility. Gen Xers on the older end of the spectrum are also reaching an age where we will face more age discrimination in the workplace. So the ability to make up lost financial ground becomes even more of a challenge.
Millennials and Gen Z members also can find themselves facing an unexpected family care crisis that requires them to derail their life plans just as they are becoming independent young professionals. Long-term caregiving situations can cause one to postpone having children or making career changes. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into just about everyone’s life, with even more people taking on caregiving responsibilities with little to no experience.
There are also positive takeaways, as some members of younger generations are embracing aging issues. From intergenerational roommate services to apps and services being developed by younger people to help improve the quality of life of our elders, there is hope that our youth will continue to embrace these noble goals as they age. It indeed takes a village.
I had the recent pleasure of receiving a review copy of Conversations Across America by Kari Loya. It’s an insightful look not only at a father-son relationship dynamic after the father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but also a visual and cultural snapshot of America.
There is much to find inspiring about the book. How many of us would be in good enough physical shape to bike across America? I know I wouldn’t and the fact that his father is able to do so while in the early stage of Alzheimer’s is admirable. The obstacles that the father and son duo face on their long journey mirrors the challenges one faces on the dementia caregiving journey. The open road facilitates difficult but necessary conversations between father and son.
The other component of the book offers photos and quotes from people Loya and his father meet along their journey. There is a diverse mix of voices and you likely will not agree with all of them, but it does offer some insight into how we ended up where we find ourselves now. Out on the road, random acts of kindness are not only welcome but necessary. Time and time again, strangers rise to the occasion.
Ultimately, Conversations Across Americais a love letter to his father, the natural beauty of the country and the helpfulness and resilience of those living in small towns. It’s a coffee table book with a conscience.
I’m excited to announce that I have written a children’s book, Slow Dog. I never expected to write a book for kids, but my rescue dog Murphy inspired me to take the leap.
Sometimes it’s rewarding to step outside of our comfort zone and look at life from a different perspective. When I adopted my senior mixed breed dog Murphy, I knew one of the challenges for me would be to adjust my fast-paced life to his decidedly slow-paced one. It was a deliberate choice as I knew it would benefit my overall well-being.
While Slow Dog doesn’t have any specific ties to dementia, it does celebrate moving at one’s own pace. That’s a helpful lesson for all caregivers.
While younger generations seem to be more open about discussing mental health issues and suicide, there doesn’t seem to be the same level of openness among older generations. According to the CDC, people aged 85 years and older have the highest rates of suicide. Middle-aged and older white men also are at increased risk of suicide.
For caregivers, suicide risk awareness not only applies to those one cares for but for the caregiver themselves. Older adults and their caregivers may be dealing with debilitating physical and mental health issues, which may cause them to also be socially isolated and lonely. As this report from Next Avenue points out, depression is not a normal part of aging. But older adults may be experiencing grief over the loss of loved ones, or worrying about financial issues or their own health problems. Loss of independence and cognitive decline can also factor into an increased risk for suicide among older adults.
Caregivers may suffer burnout while trying to care for older loved ones and raising their own families. Recent studies suggest that burnout can cause changes in the brain. Stress is linked to an increased risk of a variety of health issues. The report from Next Avenue includes a list of common depression symptoms.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Below are some resources that you can use if you are in need of help or are trying to help someone else who is experiencing a crisis. I took some suicide prevention courses earlier this year and one of the main takeaways I learned was how important it was to be direct if you feel a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts. One should ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” or a similar direct phrase. Being this direct can be challenging in certain cultures but with someone’s life potentially on the line, one needs to push through any social awkwardness.
The new national suicide prevention hotline number is 988.
Caregivers know that one of the more challenging daily tasks can be helping loved ones get dressed. Not only can it be a physical challenge for all involved, there is also the important elements of independence and dignity. For people with continence issues and those with dementia, it is essential that they have clothing that is easy to manage.
My mother struggled trying to aid my father in getting dressed and going to the bathroom in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s. He was often stubborn and didn’t want to accept help, which led to accidents and the dreaded clean-up. The only time my father was physically abusive was during one such moment, when she was trying to help him into his pajamas. He got frustrated and struck her in the jaw. I often think about others facing a similar situation each night, feeling alone and in need of help.
This is why I’m pleased to learn of the launch of CareZips Classic by Joe & Bella. This adaptive clothing line offers innovative zippers from the waist to the knees that easily open the entire pant up to make dressing, using the bathroom and cleaning up accidents easier on both the wearer and their caregiver. Its design means one does not have to fully undress to perform routine tasks.
Enter code Gift10 to receive a $10 Joe & Bella gift certificate for each pair you purchase. For every purchase you make at www.JoeAndBella.com, a portion of the proceeds is donated to frontline caregivers. Joe & Bella has already supported more than 100 care communities through their “give-back” program.