It’s the time of year for giving thanks — and we wanted to take a moment to offer our deepest gratitude to all of the caregivers out there!
As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us carve out a few moments to reflect on all the wonderful things in life. We gather around dinner tables and share what we’re thankful for, write down a list in a journal, or simply take some time to think of all the small things that bring us joy.
In these warm moments, our thoughts always turn to those who dedicate themselves to making life easier for the elderly, especially those family caregivers who give their time to support their aging family members.
The population of elderly adults in America is growing at a rapid pace, and unpaid or “informal” caregivers are the backbone and support structure of countless families across the country. As Scott Williams of Embracing Carers once said:
“Family caregivers make up a silent support army — without them, health and social systems within our aging societies would be absolutely overwhelmed.”
By some estimates, there are more than 43 million unpaid caregivers in America. Pew Research Center projects that roughly one in every eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 is directly responsible for providing care to an aging parent. Among this group, roughly half (47%) are said to be a part of the “Sandwich Generation,” looking out for their aging parents while also emotionally and financially supporting kids of their own.
Studies estimate that the average family caregiver logs about 24.4 hours per week providing care — more hours than many part-time jobs. Some 15 million caregivers say that they support someone who is experiencing a condition such as Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. Millions of caregivers also provide instrumental support to elderly loved ones, even though they live a significant distance away; one study from the National Alliance for Caregiving found that, on average, long-distance caregivers tend to live as much as 450 miles away from their loved one. That averages out to almost 7.5 hours of travel time, one-way.
At the same time, one poll suggests that 80% of caregivers work full- or part-time in addition to acting as a caregiver; about 40% say that their caregiving duties have impacted their work schedules. Caregivers give it all to their senior loved ones — and studies show that professional caregivers have been known to put off sleep, exercise, and doctor’s appointments of their own, over time.
Providing care and support to an elderly loved one is one of the most profound acts of love that there is. Family caregivers and professional companions alike say that getting to spend time with the elderly is a fulfilling and deeply meaningful experience. As the writer Tia Walker once said:
“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.”
In our years of getting to know both professional and informal caregivers, we’ve heard stories that fill us with joy, and we’ve seen how much building relationships can enrich the lives of both older adults and the companions who support them. In our experience, caregivers are a truly special group, whose patience, flexibility, grace, courage, compassion, empathy, and honesty never fail to shine through.
“Caregiving,” Walker once said, “often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.”
As we head for the holiday season, caregivers often take on even more responsibilities and duties. Sons and daughters take their older loved ones shopping, or prepare to host senior-friendly parties in their homes. Families coming together after a year apart check in with one another — and sometimes start having difficult discussions about whether the time is right to start looking into long-term care for their aging loved ones. In other cases, some caregivers spend the winter worrying about their senior loved ones getting behind the wheel, or experiencing a slip or fall accident at home. Many families will spend this winter helping their elderly loved ones recover after a stay in the hospital, or taking steps to make their home more comfortable and secure for seniors who are hoping to age in place.
In all of this, it’s important for caregivers to remember to take care of themselves. Burnout, stress, and anxiety are common among family caregivers, who often feel stretched to the limit by the many responsibilities they shoulder day-to-day. In the heart of the holiday season, and all year long, it’s essential to remember that you are important, you are precious, and that you deserve to feel supported and cared for, as well. You deserve a chance to relax and recharge, to enjoy time with family and friends, to travel, read, or explore nature.
Remember: there is no shame, selfishness, or weakness in asking for help when you need it. In fact, reaching out is one of the strongest and most incredible things you can ever do, both for your own health and well-being, and that of your aging loved one!
If you’re a family caregiver looking for ways to get help, there are numerous resources out there waiting for you — including local support groups, friends and family, and professional companionship and caregiving services, like Companions for Seniors.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
While helping seniors maintain a higher quality of life, we also hope to provide greater peace of mind for family caregivers who may need some relief. We are locally owned in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs. All of our companions are trained and bonded, and can assist your loved one in many different ways, including providing assistance with activities of daily living, meal preparation, housekeeping, transportation, and more.
From one hour to 24 hours a day, we can be there for you and your loved one. We understand that every situation is unique, so we provide a personalized care plan that’s modified to meet each client’s specific needs. As a client’s needs change, so does our plan of care. In most cases, we can assess your loved one’s needs and start a care plan within a matter of days.
Have any questions? Want to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 866-910-9020, or fill out our contact form right here.
To all the caregivers out there: thank you, and have a happy, safe, and wonderful Thanksgiving!