August 17, 2012
A new ad campaign is bringing attention to the stress put on caretakers. More than 40 million Americans care for aging or sick relatives or friends. It's often at the expense of taking care of their own families or themselves. The campaign helps caregivers find services and information they need to reduce stress and not feel so alone. The American Association of Retired Persons) and the non-profit Ad Council are sponsoring the campaign. The Associated Press wrote about it.
By Reena L. Pande, M.D.
Harvard Medical School
What Is the Doctor's Reaction?
Taking care of yourself and your family is not always easy. But add to that the need to take care of an aging and ailing parent or family member, and the stress levels can become overwhelming. I know.
When one of our parents could no longer safely live by himself, we suddenly found we needed to move him into our home. Of course, this was the right thing to do. But my husband and I will readily admit that it was hard. It was hard to manage his care and keep him safe while caring for our two little kids at the same time and somehow manage to keep up with our two full-time jobs (we are both physicians).
If you are in this situation, you are not alone. You may even know someone trying to balance her own life, care for their children, make ends meet, and care for an elderly family member all at the same time. And it is not easy.
According to some estimates, more than 40 million adults in the United States care for older or sick adult relatives or friends on a regular basis. It's estimated that these family and friends provide up to $450 billion worth of care. The responsibility often falls on family members because long-term care outside the home can be very expensive. And most Americans do not have expensive private long-term care insurance that might cover these costs. Regular health insurance, or Medicare, does not pay for the kind of regular daily care many adults need later in life.
A new ad campaign sponsored by the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and the Ad Council, a non-profit agency, wants you to know that you are not alone and that you can get help. The goal of the ads is to raise awareness of the effects that family caregiving can have and to help people find the resources they need to reduce the stress.
The key message is that there is help. And that caring for others requires first that you care for yourself.
What Changes Can I Make Now?
What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?
With our aging population, more of our older and frail family members are going to need help. Many of us may feel "sandwiched" between caring for our elderly family members and our young children, while we keep up a happy relationship with a spouse or perhaps keep up a job. Like our family, you may not know where to turn.
This ad campaign is a start. It's a reminder that you are not alone, that it is not easy, and that it's okay to ask for help.