Recognizing That Caregivers Need Care, Too

Jul 30, 2014

There's an informal but vital network of health care providers, toiling away in neighborhoods and towns everywhere. They may not be doctors or nurses, or CNAs, or techs, but they care for elderly parents and spouses with dementia, children with disabilities, and relatives with injuries. They're family caregivers, and sometimes they need a break.

Here's some help, or at least some promising news, for them.

  • A Rhode Island Hospital study, the results of which were announced today, found that a telephone support system could help people who care for friends or family with dementia. That's important for caregivers who might be unable to get away to an in-person support group but who still need help themselves dealing with the depression or anxiety that can come with the demands of being a caregiver. It's also important to find more ways to support caregivers because there will, inevitably, be more of them. That's because we're set to see a huge rise in the number of people with dementia of some form thanks to an aging population.
  • Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) was among a bipartisan group of senators who formed a congressional caucus dedicated to raising awareness about the many volunteers - family, friends, spouses - caring for veterans. From the group's statement, issued this week: "These family members and loved ones shoulder the responsibility of bathing, feeding, dressing, managing medication and injections, arranging for rehabilitation, all while most are raising a family.  A recent RAND study commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation estimates the services they provide save our nation $13.6 billion annually, yet these caregivers too often pay a price, suffering physical and emotional stress and illnesses; difficulty maintaining employment; financial, legal and family strains; and isolation.  The Hidden Heroes Congressional Caucus for Military and Veteran Caregivers, co-chaired by Leader Pelosi, Senator McCain, Senator Jack Reed and Congressman Jeff Miller, will raise awareness and develop legislation in support of the millions of military and veteran caregivers tending to their ill and injured warrior at home."
  • A study in the journal Pediatrics found that six weeks of mindfulness training helped caregivers of children with autism and other disabilities manage their own stress, anxiety, and depression better. The study's authors note that caregivers of these children faced some higher levels of stress, troubling sleeping, and more - understandably.

I tip my hat to the many volunteer caregivers in Rhode Island and beyond. You're not forgotten.