Caregivers take care

Diana FisherGet Up & Go

A new year is here and, for many, 2020 will bring special rewards and challenges in caring for an elderly parent or loved one.

According to the Institute on Aging, 65 percent of older adults who need long-term care rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance. Another 30 percent supplement family care with paid assistance. Of those providing care, 75 percent are women.

As a caregiver, dealing with a loved one’s chronic illness, loss of independence and other aging-related issues can seem complicated to navigate, but there are resources and tips to help you on this journey. Remember to:

  • Take care of yourself. Make your health and mental well-being a priority each day. Take a walk, meditate, nap or do something that brings you joy. Don’t feel guilty. By taking time for yourself, you become a more effective caregiver.
  • Embrace your “village.” Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you. When supporters ask what they can do for you, give them a task. They truly want to help and, in turn, it’s an item you can check off the list as completed.
  • Educate yourself. Understand the disease process of your loved one. Join a support group. Many groups have online support if you are unable to attend a face-to-face meeting. Ask questions of the physicians and medical teams caring for your loved one. Knowledge is power.
  • Cherish every second. As stressful as the days may get, take one second at a time. There are small victories in each moment – don’t miss them.

Knoxville and Knox County also offer community resources. For a comprehensive list of these resources, connect with the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee’s Office on Aging.

Make it a goal to greet the New Year as a new beginning. The first day of 2020 can be a great time to recharge and release the emotional and physical stress of the daily responsibilities of caregiving. Reflect on the previous year and focus on changes you can make in the coming year to improve your quality of life and reduce stress and burnout.

As Rosalynn Carter once said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”

Diana Fisher, BSW, LNHA, is director of business development at Hillcrest Healthcare.

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