When an older loved one is in need of care as a result of injury or illness, the responsibility typically falls on a family member. The statistics are nothing short of staggering. 43.5 million people care for a loved one over the age of 50 and close to 15 million people care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Family caregivers are heroes. They selflessly give of themselves. But, they often pay the price emotionally and physically.

While each situation is unique, these caregivers can easily find themselves assuming responsibility for a great number of responsibilities. A daughter might find herself assisting with baths, helping her loved one in and out of bed, getting dressed, toileting, shopping and running errands, and doing housekeeping. To be sure, the demands can be overwhelming, particularly when you are juggling these responsibilities with your family, career and other obligations.

A common call we get goes something like this – I go to work late, take long lunch breaks and often leave early. I’ve burned up all of my vacation and just simply cannot do it anymore. These are very real concerns.

A recent study by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving revealed that 22 percent of caregivers felt their health had gotten worse because of caregiving. The study also found that nearly one in five caregivers (19 percent) reported a high level of physical strain resulting from caregiving, while 38 percent considered their caregiving situation to be emotionally stressful.

What’s worse still is that often times, an adult child feels like there is no alternative other than providing care themselves. In those cases, the stress levels are even higher with 53 percent reporting “high levels of emotional stress.”

The holiday season can exacerbate caregiver stress so particular attention should be given to care for the caregiver.

Sometimes the caregiver just needs a break. There is the office holiday party and daughter’s Christmas concert, or just shopping, free of worries associated with your loved one. Seek out a reputable and experienced agency and give yourself a break. That’s the advice I give every family caregiver. I see the challenges they face and I know the price paid when the caregiver’s care is lacking.

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Home Helpers home care empowers older adults to remain in the comfort of their home, assisting with a full range of senior care services. Home Helpers of Little Rock president Sam Sellers is a Certified Alzheimer’s Educator who serves on the Board of Directors for Alzheimer’s Arkansas. He is a published author (Finding Freedom at Home: The Ultimate Guide to Home Care) and mentor to home care agency owners nationally.

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