When you hear the word caregiver, what image comes to mind? Maybe what you see is someone in your family, someone you work with, a friend, or even you. The reality is approximately 25% of adults in the United States report being a caregiver to someone with a long-term illness or disability in the past 30 days. The caregiving role can look different for everyone. Some people feel that being a caregiver makes them feel good about themselves, has taught them new skills, and has strengthened their relationship with their loved one. However, many people find themselves in a caregiving role that has a negative impact on their financial health, physical health, and mental health. In fact, there is such a concern for caregivers that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refer to caregiving as a public health priority.
In addition to the health of the caregiver, these negative impacts can affect the care that is being given as well. Caregivers who experience compassion fatigue can feel hopeless, resentful, less patient, and lose empathy. They develop a negative view of their caregiving role. To be a good caregiver, you first need to care for yourself. One way to take care of yourself is to have a respite plan. The term respite means to have consistent breaks from your caregiving responsibilities. Respite care can be provided by family, friends, or outside agencies, and the services can range widely. In the January episode of the Healthy Aging Network , Dr. Teresa Young shares the following tips to get started with making a respite plan.
- Focus on Strengths – What are the things that have helped you make it through to this point. Is it that you are organized? Is it a sense of humor? Are you flexible?
- Determine the needs – Once you know your strengths, the next step is to determine what help you really need. Is it transportation? Could you use help with household chores? Do you just need time away?
- Be specific – Make sure to be specific when expressing needs.
For some who are already overwhelmed with responsibilities, the idea of seeking respite or creating a plan can feel like one more task that is added to their plate. Caregivers often lack a respite plan because they simply don’t know where to start. The Ohio State University Extension’s Caregiver Support Network is offering two free webinars on February 17th, 2021. The workshops are open to anyone and will focus on creating a respite plan, sharing caregiving experiences, and sharing resources.
To register for the Ohio State University Extension workshop, go to go.osu.edu/caregiver2021 . To learn more about the Caregiver Support Network, please contact Laura Akgerman at firstname.lastname@example.org .