According to the Caregiver Action Network, there are approximately 65 million superheroes, uh…unpaid caregivers, providing an average of 20 hours per week of care to a disabled and/or aged loved one across the United States (http://caregiveraction.org/statistics/#CaregivingPopulation). If we put all of those caregivers in one place, that would equal more than the population of all of the states west of the Rocky Mountains combined!
To say that caregivers are superheroes is an understatement! The list of duties, chores, and responsibilities that they have on a daily basis is enormous and many of them are doing so with their own frailties (in the case of an elderly spouse), or their own immediate family duties and responsibilities (in the case of a middle-aged daughter caring for her elderly mother), and at their own personal and financial expense. These superheroes juggle doctors appointments, obtain mail and pay bills, assist with medications, help with bathing and dressing, provide laundry services, cook and serve meals, and clean dishes, floors, and front porches. And let’s not forget that they provide socialization, daily activities, and outdoor lawn and garden care and leaf and snow removal! AND then, some of them go across town to their own homes to do it all over again! Whew! It’s exhausting just to think about it!
Most of these Superhero caregivers take on these duties not by choice, but by chance or circumstance. Unlike Superman, who knew from youth that he would be a Superhero, few caregivers knew that they would grow up to be caregivers, and unlike the X-Men, who had their School for the Gifted, none of these caregivers were fortunate enough to have a School for the Caregiver to give them the training that they would need to succeed. And yet, caregivers everywhere somehow have heaped the idea on themselves that they should be everything, know everything, and do everything for their loved one. This Superhero mentality is what leads to caregiver burnout and stress.
If there is anything that I could say today that would be of benefit to caregivers, it would be this: Superheroes only exist in movies and comic books, and NO ONE expects you to be a Superhero! I’ll say that again, “You don’t have to be a Superhero!”
Even if you were a Superhero, have you forgotten that they had help?! Have you ever heard of the Fantastic Four, the Super Friends, the Justice League, and the Avengers? Even Batman had Robin. In other words, you are not alone and you do not have to do this job all by yourself! Not only is it ok to ask for help, but it is expected that you will need help and there are many programs and services available to assist you like: Support and Education Groups, Financial Planners, Chore Services, Personal Care Attendants, Adult Day Centers, Home Health, Hospice, Respite Services, Assisted Living Communities, Dementia Care Facilities, Geriatric Psych Facilities and Services, Rehabilitation Centers, Skilled Nursing Communities, and Specialty Physicians.
So, how do you know what help is right for you and your loved one, and how do you find this help?
A Superhero would contact S.H.I.E.L.D. Fortunately, Caregivers also have organizations that can help them wade through the options. These include, but are not limited to:
Seniors Care Source (serving Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties): http://www.seniorscaresource.com
Your local Area Agency on Aging – in Salt Lake County, that is: http://www.slco.org/aging/caregiverSupport
The Alzheimer’s Association: http://www.alz.org
If you need more information, feel free to reach out to me through the “Contact Me” tab.