November is National Family Caregivers Month, and it celebrates family members and friends who provide support to their loved ones.
At Trinity Care Center, a nonprofit that provides adult day care services for those in Coffee, Bedford, Franklin and Moore counties, volunteer Kitty Shukla expressed gratitude to all caregivers in the community.
The mission of the organization, Shukla said, is to offer respite for caregivers providing long-term care to their loved one at home. Shukla has been involved with the program since 1991, serving as a volunteer and a staff member through the years.
“National Family Caregivers Month is in recognition of millions of caregivers we have in our country that are trying to take care of their loved one at home,” Shukla said. “It is to recognize them, and the effort and time they are dedicating.”
A family caregiver is anyone who provides any time of physical or emotional care for an individual or a loved one at home or in the community, said Shukla.
One of the big challenges caregivers may face is “burnout,” according to Shukla.
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, and caregivers suffering burnout may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression.
Many caretakers provide support to loved ones with disabilities or health issues for extended periods of time.
“The average is about four years,” Shukla said. “But some caregivers have taken care of family members for 10 years.”
“When a person tries to take care of their loved one, friend or whomever, for a length of time, the burnout happens,” Shukla said. “The caregivers are so consumed with taking care of someone else, they are not taking care of themselves.”
Because caregiving consumes the caregiver physically, emotionally, financially and mentally, Shukla said, “It becomes very, very exhausting for the caregiver.”
That’s why it is very important for caretakers to have support and not wait until the point of total exhaustion to ask for help.
“If they can get some help, it does lighten the burden,” Shukla said.
Shukla recommends seeking support from other caregivers.
“You should also go to support groups,” she said. “But here is the tricky part: the caregivers are taking care of their loved one and they are already exhausted, so they really don’t have any extra time and energy to go to the support group.”
Ideally, going to a support group would be great, but practically, she said, it often doesn’t work and caregivers who are consumed with providing support for their loved ones neglect their own health.
“Quite often, the caregiver passes on before the loved one they are taking care of because they put their healthcare needs on the backburner,” Shukla said. “And that’s what contributes to their health going down. There is a lot of stress involved with caregiving – physical and emotional.”
The key to preventing burnout, she said, is acknowledging that seeking additional support would help.
“We don’t have to be superwomen and supermen,” Shukla said. “We should recognize it’s alright to get help – in different areas and starting as early as possible.
“Don’t wait until you are exhausted, your health is not good and you can’t even think straight because you are so tired and exhausted. This is not the time to do it.”
Shukle recommends asking for help from any source available – from a neighbor, health services, or from an adult care center, such as the Trinity Care Center.
Only 10 to 20 percent of individuals who require care in the United States receive it in institutions, according to Shukla.
Once a family member is in the role of a caregiver, breaks are rare. Caregivers provide care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with few, if any vacations.
This is one of the main factors leading to burnout, said Shukla.
More than third of caretakers have been in that role for more than 10 years.
More than 40 percent of caregivers spend at least 40 hours a week providing care, while they also have jobs.
Women provide the majority of caregiving – 80 percent of caregivers are women.
Only 16 percent of caretakers ask for help from private of public agencies.
About Trinity Care Center
Trinity Lutheran Church launched the adult day care program 25 years ago, with the help of volunteers from the community.
The center is licensed by the State of Tennessee for 12 participants.
Trinity Care Center, 708 1st Ave., is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Participants can stay for as many hours as they wish.
The prices are as follows: $7.50 per hour; $26 for five hours; $37 per day; and $165 per week.
To learn more, call the center at 455-0755.
About National Family Caregivers Month
November’s National Family Caregivers Month began as National Family Caregivers Week in the mid-1990s.
The importance of family caregivers has gained recognition over the years and the National Family Caregivers week has now grown into an awareness month, thanks to a 2012 proclamation by President Barack Obama.
Elena Cawley can be reached via email at email@example.com.