How we care for the Care Provider’s Posted August 11, 2017 in Our articles

I have had the great privilege to facilitate a caregiver support group on a monthly basis over the past 5 years. The course of conversation has been nothing short of spectacular and sobering. I have been overwhelmed by the spirit and dedication of the men and women attending the group sharing their challenges and triumphs. The member’s ability to be both vulnerable and ask for help while offering expertise to others was a very powerful example. I urge the care providers to reach out and seek support through the process. Caring for the Caregiver is another arena in which we can provide support to clients and families.

Aging Life Care Professionals (ALCP’s) are routinely thrust into the role of providing care management not only to the client (often an older adult), but frequently to the client’s family and care providers. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP reported in 2015 that approximately 34.2 million Americans (or over 10% of us) have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months; these numbers are expected to continue to grow as the Boomer’s age and the number affected by dementia and related illnesses grows.

Care providers often describe the impact of caregiving on multiple aspects of daily life, routine, relationships and personal focus. The economics of caregiving often necessitate an alteration of work schedules, resulting in financial strain. The ongoing physical and emotional demands coupled with a sense of obligation can result in isolation and loneliness. The impact of isolation from others, combined with an ever changing sense of normalcy can have negative health consequences to the care provider.

There are two critical questions that care provider must address: what are the expectations I have for myself as the care partner, and what can I realistically provide? Care providers need to be vigilant and self-aware, accepting their own limitations. As the needs of the care recipient change over time, so too must the expectations of the care provider adjust. The Aging Life Care Professional can play a key role in counseling the care partner during times of transition whether they are functional or psychological in nature. With appropriate support, the impact of long term stress can often be tempered by the strategies used in response to the stressors.

As resource navigators, ALCP’s help identify resources to assist care providers and the care recipient, which may include support groups, Adult Day programs, Memory Café’s, Music and memory programs, counseling services, therapeutic exercise and physical engagement. Finding joy in caregiving can be enhanced through outreach and support, resources that are navigated through ALCP’s.

We gain strength from a varied array of resources. What nourishes the strength of one may be of little help to another. As caregiving evolves and care needs change, the ALCA professional is positioned to be a valued partner, able to recognize and work with care partners to identify, acknowledge, and support those needs.