You’re Not Alone and It’s Not a War Zone

By Kim Atchley

The Family Caregiver Alliance has resources and data for anyone in the caregiving field, but they are also great for caregivers themselves to see as further proof that they are not alone! The FCA cites that 52 million, yes, million people are classified as ‘informal caregivers.’ They provide care to a family member or friend of any age who is ill or disabled. If you want to translate that to just those giving care to senior adults, there are 22.4 million households offering care, 5 million of which are specifically caring for someone with dementia. Other data suggesting that there are over 40 million people serving as caregivers. No matter what statistics you use, the fact is that caregivers are everywhere, working hard to support loved ones. In the toughest times, it is easy for a caregiver to feel that he or she is in a war zone and responsible for digging the foxhole and getting everyone in while waging the battle without the help of other troops. Discussions about the hot-button issues like living arrangements, financial management, and end-of-life concerns are often postponed because of the emotional minefield people feel they will walk through if those issues are addressed. The biggest challenge for caregivers is to realize that they are not solitary soldiers and there are many tools to use to help encourage peace. Resources like All About Seniors, newspaper and magazine articles can be essential tools in developing a more peaceful approach to this time of life. They help caregivers and their loved ones find the help they need but can also open the door for essential communication. Pointing out articles or ads addressing topics of concern offers a non-emotional starting place for discussion about emotional issues. Caregivers aren’t the only ones who can open those doors, either. Seniors can take action by pointing out the issues of concern too. For example, pointing out an ad or article about a new assisted living facility can encourage discussion about how a current living situation may no longer be meeting a person’s needs. An article highlighting a new hospice house might be used to start a conversation about end-of-life issues. The more that caregivers and their loved ones communicate about the issues that concern them, and realize they’re not alone in the search for answers, the more quickly they can find valuable support. Time is not spent worrying about unspoken fears or frustrations, but in building quality memories during peaceful times of well lived lives- and doing it together.

Kim Atchley is co-author with Candy Arrington of the book When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life, released by Harvest House Publishers in 2009, and available at all major online and in-store booksellers.