As the population of our country ages, the face of caregiving is changing along with it. Today, 80% 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 only one aging loved one, but 22% help two, and an impressive, but likely overwhelmed, 7% 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.
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 experience 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.
An internet connection can also play an important role in your caregiving experience, cluing you in to 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 Skype 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.
As a caregiver, you’re part of a community of empowered individuals who give of 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.
*Pew Research Center Sources: bls.gov, pewinternet.org