Finding support as you care for your aging parents

More than one in five Americans today serve as caregivers to family members, and that number is expected to rise as Americans continue to live longer. Whether you find yourself in the caregiver role on a daily basis or only occasionally, you’re likely to experience some amount of “caregiver stress” resulting from the responsibilities you’ve assumed as you care for aging parents or loved ones.

Caregivers are more likely to develop physical disorders including diabetes and high blood pressure and are at a higher risk for aging disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Caregivers are also at risk for mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. This should come as no surprise since more than 60 percent of caregivers also have jobs in addition to their family role.

Twenty-six percent of caregivers also experience additional stress due to the challenge of coordinating care along with their other family and work responsibilities, and 21 percent reported being in fair to poor health themselves.

Clearly, self-care needs to be an increased priority for caregivers, and the best way to improve overall well-being is to attend regular support group meetings. Even if support meetings aren’t in person, a 2018 study showed that a real-time chat in a virtual setting effectively helped participants decrease the severity of mental health issues and improve psychological well-being.

Once you’ve made the decision to become part of a support group, you may also want to consider what type of interaction is most comfortable for you. The most interactive option available would be live, in-person meetings that include face-to-face conversations with others in similar situations. Several live meetings now also include digital options, which allow you to interact in real-time from your home computer. Finally, if you prefer to express yourself in writing, you may prefer an online forum where you can submit questions or requests and see written responses from other like-minded participants.

Here are some of the best options, according to VeryWell Health:

  • Best Overall:The Caregiver Action Network, a nationwide non-profit organization aimed at helping to support all types of caregivers, including family caregivers who are parents of children with special needs, caregivers helping wounded veterans, as well as caregivers for people with dementia and other age-related debilitating disorders.
  • Best for Dementia Caregivers:The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, which specializes in providing educational and supportive services for people who are caregivers for a person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias.
  • Best Local (In-Person):The Alzheimer’s Association offers a wide range of support groups in many geographic areas in the U.S. The groups are run by trained facilitators and all support groups are free of charge.
  • Best for Working Daughters:Working Daughter, a website as well as an online Facebook-based support group for working daughters who are caring for their elderly parents (or other care recipients).
  • Best for Mental Illness:National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), a national non-profit organization that offers a peer-led Family Support Group. The goal of the group is to support caregivers and family members of anyone who suffers from symptoms of a mental health condition.

Of course, these are just a few of the many options available. You may also find options through your local church, community center, or healthcare provider. The most important factor is to find a place you feel comfortable sharing your current situation with people you trust and can relate to what you’re going through.  Remember that you cannot effectively care for others if you are not actively taking care of yourself.

If you have reached a point where it’s become too challenging to care for your aging loved one on your own, it’s time to evaluate and select a senior care community that can help. Facilities managed by American Health Corporation – including three locations in Alabama – offer the highest quality healthcare nearby and offer programs to help patients and families make complex and difficult decisions about living arrangements, now and in the future.

Contact the American Health Corporation nursing home in your area today for more information or to schedule a guided tour:

Oak Trace (Bessemer, AL) 205-428-9383

Colonial Haven (Greensboro, AL) 334-624-3054

Perry County Nursing Home (Marion, AL) 334-683-9696