Family Caregivers: 'Now More Than Ever'

AMES, Iowa — Adding the role of caregiver to an already full life can be overwhelming. With about 90 million family caregivers in the United States, National Family Caregivers Month is recognizing the need for their service with the theme “now more than ever.”

“The physical, emotional and financial stress can make it difficult to appreciate the rewards of caring for a loved one,” said Donna Donald, a family life specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “As the number of family caregivers continues to grow, ‘now more than ever’ it is important to recognize the vital role family caregivers play and find support and resources to help them thrive, not just survive.”

Two out of five adults in the U.S. are family caregivers and 39 percent of all adult Americans are caring for a sick or disabled loved one, according to the Caregiver Action Network. The network coordinates National Family Caregivers Month every November as a time to thank, support, educate and empower family caregivers.

“Caregiving takes many forms. A caregiver may help a friend or relative with housekeeping, grocery shopping or personal care,” Donald said. “Maybe you drive your loved one to doctor appointments or social activities at a senior center. Maybe your loved one lives with you or you help him or her with financial, legal or insurance issues. If you do one or more of these, you are a caregiver.”

Extension and Outreach Resources for Caregivers

Caregivers who thrive, rather than just survive, understand that by taking care of themselves, they are better able to provide the care that their loved ones need, Donald said.

Family caregivers can get resources online from eXtension, America’s research-based learning network. Go to http://www.extension.org/family_caregiving for information, webinars and “ask an expert” questions and answers related to many aspects of family caregiving.

Family caregivers also may want to seek out a Powerful Tools for Caregivers class from ISU Extension and Outreach, Donald said. These classes, held over a period of six weeks, are designed to provide family caregivers with skills they need to take care of themselves.

“The Powerful Tools classes help caregivers find balance in their lives. You’ll learn ways to reduce stress, improve self-confidence, better communicate your feelings and increase your ability to make tough decisions,” Donald said.

For information about upcoming classes, contact any ISU Extension and Outreach county office or check the Powerful Tools for Caregivers website, http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/ptc-tools.

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