Jason W. Swanson: Caregivers are important people
Summary: Letter writers call for support for caregivers, especially in these challenging times.
As you prepare to take off in an airplane, the flight attendants give a few minutes review of safety protocols in emergency situations. If something goes wrong, they always state, help yourself before you help someone else.
This is an important concept for caregiving as well.
Many older adults have isolated throughout this difficult year, and many are depending on a caregiver (spouse, child, sibling or parent) for socialization, among other cares.
This may prevent many caregivers from taking care of themselves, meeting with friends, going to the doctor or going out to religious activities.
If a caregiver goes too long without taking care of themselves, they will inevitably suffer from burnout. According to AARP and the National Alliance on Caregiving study on Caregiving in the U.S. 2020, 36% of family caregivers stated they are in a highly stressful environment.
Communities, families and other organizations must support caregivers, especially going into this pandemic winter.
There are numerous ways we can support caregivers.
Give them a break, tell them you can (if able) care for their loved one so they can go out into the community.
Look for signs of burnout; these can include depression, exhaustion, anger, increased health issues in the caregiver or further social withdrawal.
Assist in finding local support groups or provide resources to find caregiver support groups, which many are currently offered online.
Finally, caregivers offer numerous supports that the general public rarely notices, and many people do not recognize that they are a caregiver.
It masks it and it is very difficult to assist people in their caregiving journey if they do not realize they are a caregiver.
Therefore, look at your day-to-day life. Do you help someone in their daily routine? If so, you might be a caregiver. How are you doing?
Jason W. Swanson, HSE, Executive Director
Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging