Take Care of Yourself: Resources for Caregivers

Posted on 01/21/20

Senior woman with caregiver in the park

If Dr. Robert Lindsay has his way, Virginia’s “Welcome” signs would all read “Virginia is for Caregivers” instead of the famous “Virginia is for Lovers.” According to a 2015 survey, one in five Virginians serves as a caregiver in some capacity, and these numbers are likely to increase as the Baby Boomer population ages. And Dr. Lindsay, founder of the Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving, believes Virginia communities should do more to support those in caregiving roles.

Speaking at a Caregiver Support program sponsored by Senior Services of Alexandria with support from AARP on January 11, 2020, Dr. Lindsay, an energetic, fast-talking octogenarian, noted that many caregivers find themselves in this “unexpected career” with little or no planning or preparation. He believes we would all be better served if, along with routine CPR training, Caregiving 101 courses are also offered. To that end, the Lindsay Institute’s Caregiving Initiative strives to improve the wellness of family caregivers, including self-care, emotional stressors, and tough decisions, and Dr. Lindsay shared some of his insight with the group.

All types of people are caregivers, not only spouses and adult children, but, increasingly young people under age 18 who find themselves in the position of caring for parents or grandparents. Persons needing care are not only the elderly, who see increases in disabilities during later years, but also younger people with disabilities who are cared for by aging parents or siblings.

Caregiving mostly falls to women, who typically have many other responsibilities, with Alzheimer’s disease being an exception, as it affects women more often than men, often forcing men into a caregiver role. Military spouses also often are forced into a special caregiving role, with little training or preparation to care for spouses returning from combat with physical, mental, and cognitive injuries, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Caregiving can be a tremendous stress, both economic and emotional. Caregiving can result in lost wages and depletion of savings by the caregiver. It also puts a strain on employers, who may not be able to keep positions open for caregivers who need lots of time off; finding replacements can be costly. Caregivers also seldom talk to their doctors about the stress and other physical issues they experience, often making conditions worse.

This story is provided by AARP Virginia. Visit the AARP Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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