November is National Family Caregivers Month which recognizes more than 50 million people caring for loved ones in the United States. It also offers a chance to raise awareness about their challenges and the support they may need.
New research emphasizes the impact of caregiving can be emotional, physical, and financial.
“Family caregiving is an incredibly intensive and time-consuming experience,” said psychologist doctor Lucille Carriere.
Carriere says caregiving takes a toll on the caregiver.
“We particularly see this in more complex medical diagnoses, such as dementia, where we see a lot of unfortunately negative effects for family caregivers,” Carriere said.
According to data from a Parade Media and Cleveland Clinic survey, 36% of caregivers suffer from depression and anxiety. Caregivers are 90% more likely to experience anxiety daily compared to non-caregivers.
Many caregivers are also working and caring for small children while they care for an aging parent.
Around 56% of caregivers say it’s unrealistic for them to take a day off for their emotional and mental health. But 70% agree they need regular mental and emotional health breaks.
Carriere says finding even brief moments of respite can help caregivers avoid burnout.
“It could be as little as five minutes, or maybe it needs a little bit longer, and I think that’s some kind of personal reflection on the case of the caregiver to kind of decide what feels right for them,” Carriere said. “So if that’s a five-minute walk, stepping outside to do a breathing exercise, if it’s taking a few moments to journal or call or text a friend, for example, those can all be really meaningful for that individual caregiver.”
Caregivers also said it’s difficult to ask for help. If you want to help a caregiver, try making a specific suggestion of something you could do rather than a general offer of help.