Whether in-person or online, connections fostered among caregivers provide long-range benefits.
As the populations for our country ages, the face of caregiving is changing along with it. Today, 80 percent of those providing long-term care in the United States are not healthcare professionals-instead they are family members and even friends. There are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the United States. Most help one aging loved one, but 22 percent help two, and an impressive, but likely overwhelmed, 7 percent help three or more.*
With this shift from the clinical to the familial comes another change. A majority of those same individuals do not self-identify as “caregivers,” despite providing assistance to loved ones on a regular basis. This may not seem like a problem, until you consider that caregivers who don’t truly understand their role are less likely to connect with those around them, for support and encouragement.
A Caring Community
Fostering connections with those who understand what you’re going through can make the road you’re traveling easier to navigate. By standing together, caregivers create a community through shared experiences that’s widespread and accessible anywhere, both in their local area and through online platforms.
Many caregivers enjoy participating in community events, attending support groups or gathering over brimming cups of coffee. Group text messages are easy to create and maintain, and provide a safe space to exchange well wishes, best practices, uplifting messages and more. Scheduling regular get-togethers with nearby caregivers is another way to connect, providing an outlet as well as a wealth of resources.
Tap Into Your Virtual Network
An internet connection can also play an important role in your caregiving experience, cluing you into new advances in medicine and technology. Not only that, but a majority of caregivers who have accessed online information say that it has helped them cope with stress.
When venturing into online spaces, search out message boards with discussions that reflect your own experiences, pencil in video chat dates with faraway friends, and read up on all the internet has to offer-from in-depth research to lighthearted blog posts. There’s no limit to what you can find.
Connect and Reflect
As a caregiver, you’re a part of a community of empowered individuals who give themselves to better the lives of those they love. And since we’re on the topic of connections, it’s important not to forget the greatest connection that can be strengthened during your time as a caregiver; the one you share and are fostering each day with your loved one.
Connect with someone who can relate to your caregiving experience.
Explore a message board for added caregiving insight.
Have a conversation with your advisor about the financial implications of caregiving.
Sources: bls.gov,pewinternet.org; *Pew Research Center
From "Amy & Dan Smith's Planning for Life" column appearing monthly in the Blue Ridge Leader, Loudoun County, VA.
The foregoing article contains general legal information only and is not intended to convey legal advice. For legal advice regarding estate planning, the reader should contact his/her lawyer.
Daniel D. Smith is a partner in the law firm of Smith & Pugh, PLC, 161 Fort Evans Road, NE, Suite 345, Leesburg, VA 20176. (Tel: 703-777-6084, www.smithpugh.com). He has practiced law in Loudoun County since 1980.