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Another Reason to be Thankful: Honoring Caregivers

Pay back

It seems only fitting that as we celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday that we should also pay gratitude this month for the millions of Americans who serve as caregivers. Most of us do not know that November is National Family Caregivers Month

The Value of Care

For those for whom they provide care, these 90 million Americans are a life line. In dollar figures, these unsung heroes provide $450 billion worth of care, one of the largest segments of our health care system.

This figure, accounts for a dollar value on every meal prepared, every call made to an insurance company and every time a caregiver helped an older adult bathe or dress, is nearly as much as the government spent on Medicare in 2009 and nearly four times what Medicaid itself paid for long-term care services. It’s an estimate that explains why caregivers are so overwhelmed and in dire need of support, says Lynn Feinberg, senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute.

“It’s difficult to find paid help to supplement the care family provides at home,” Feinberg says. “There’s a shortage of quality home care aides; with the economic downturn, people are having a harder time paying for the extra care; and public programs are shrinking — many states now have waiting lists.”  AARP Public Policy Institute 

The Dollar Cost of Care

“We have to recognize that in the United States, caregiving comes at a cost. We need to provide better support to families in their caregiving roles. Because otherwise, our whole long-term care and health care systems will almost collapse.” AARP Public Policy Institute.`

Significant findings include:

  • People who take care of others are devoting nearly 20 hours per week on average to caregiving duties, often while still working a full-time job.
  • Caregiving costs have increased 20 percent over the last estimate of $375 million two years ago.
  • Caregivers provide 1.4 billion trips per year for older adults who no longer drive.
  • Caregivers are using their own personal savings — or diverting money for their own health care needs — to help cover the $5,000 annual average out-of-pocket cost for caregiving.
  • Caregivers are also leaving the workforce earlier than they would, losing an average of $115,900 in wages, $137,980 in Social Security benefits and $50,000 in pension benefits.

The Health Cost of Care

Many caregivers fail to consider their own health needs and are less likely to practice preventative health measures.  The burden of caregiving can be physically demanding.  Caregivers frequently report:

  • sleep deprivation
  • poor eating habits
  • failure to exercise
  • failure to stay in bed when ill
  • postponement of or failure to make medical appointments
  • higher incidence of alcohol abuse
  • tobacco use
  • use of drugs

Even though caregiving for a family member can be rewarding and demonstrates love and commitment, it often introduces added physical and emotion stress and can be burdensome financially. 

Alarming studies have shown that clinical depression among family caregivers can be as high as 46-59 percent.

Poor self-care behaviors not only take an emotional toll, many times the physical manifestations can be life altering.  Care giving as an increased risk chronic health conditions such as:

  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • back injuries
  • diminished immune response
  • obesity

Taking one for the team

The majority of family caregivers have assume this role willing but approximately forty-four percent report that they did feel that they had a choice in taking on their caregiving responsibilities  So while the rest of us are getting on with our lives these folks watch enviously from the sidelines.  For the most part caregiving is a temporary situation over 31% of caregivers have been in their roles five years or longer.

Thanking the caregiver:  a random act of kindness

As we end the month of Thanksgiving, let’s not forget to remember these 90 million caregivers, a force for good and compassion among us.  Regrettably, 50% of caregivers report that they receive no unpaid help from friends or family.  So why not make an effort to show appreciation for these unsung heroes by extending compassion and support with a random act of kindness. 

Valerie Sobel recently suggested five in the Huffington Post:

  1. Send a card of appreciation or a bouquet of flowers to brighten up a family caregiver’s day.
  2. Help a caregiver decorate their home for the holidays or offer to address envelopes for their holiday cards.
  3. Offer comic relief! Purchase tickets to a local comedy club, give the caregiver your favorite funny movie to view, or provide them an amusing audio book to listen to while doing their caregiving activities.
  4. Offer to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for a caregiving family in your community, so that they can just relax and enjoy the holiday.
  5. Encourage local businesses to offer a free service from family caregivers through the month of November. 

To that list I would add several of my own:

  • Make a simple visit.
  • Take the time to express you acknowledgement of their service.
  • Take the family caroling to their home.
  • When you see the caregiver and his loved one, make an effort to involve the loved one in the conversation.
  • Pick up the tab when you see the caregiver and their loved one at a restaurant.

So make someone’s day!   Not only will you make the caregivers day, but I guarantee that you will feel darn good yourself. 

My caregiving journey has gone from a task that I was doing to a source of joy and fulfillment.  Find out how you can change your caregiving experience by contacting me.   Let me inspire you! 

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Taking the Positive Approach

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw

Running on the beach in the rain in Hawaii
Running in the rain in Hawaii
Jogging in Hawaii on the beach
Jogging in Hawaii, soaking up the positive energy.

I have found that taking a positive approach to life, as recommended by George Bernard Shaw, to be invaluable advice.  Little did I know that when I turned 60, almost 10 years ago, jogging would become such an integral part of my life.  It happen quite by chance, but jogging has turned out to be a positive part of who I am.  Just this morning when I woke up, I could feel the cobwebs. I kind of had one of those “first thing in the morning” headaches.  But I knew that all I had to do was put on my running shoes, grab my earbuds and phone, leash up my favorite running companion, Max, and in no time I would feel better. In reality I knew that I would be better than better. I would be feeling great! It has happened so many times that I have total faith in the principle.

Throughout my life, I have noticed that when I take a proactive approach with a positive attitude to life’s challenges, things just turn out better.  That isn’t to say that there haven’t been a multitude of difficult challenges throughout my life, we all have them.  Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean that we stick our heads in the sand and ignore the challenge.  Having a positive attitude opens our minds to more possible solutions. A positive attitude also increases our confidence that a workable solution will be found.

Internet articles abound regarding the positive effect of a positive attitude.  I recently found one by Laura Bauer in which she enumerates six benefits of a positive attitude.  Among the positive benefits of positive thinking, she mentions greater resistance to the common cold, lower cholesterol, and increased resistance to cardiovascular disease.  Although these three should be enough to prompt all of us to try to improve our attitudes, the remaining three were particularly interesting to me.

Increased life span.

In a recent Dutch study that appeared in the JAMA Psychiatry, it was found that those with a positive attitude were 55% less likely to die during the nine-year follow-up period.

Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress and depression.

George Patton, a professor of adolescent health research at the Murdoch Children’s Centre for Adolescent Health in Melbourne, noted in an article published in Pediatrics, found that optimistic kids do better in avoiding emotional and behavioral problems during their teens, even though they are not completely immune to setbacks.

Slower aging.

The last benefit should get all of our attentions.  The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study that found that pessimistic adults, ages 60 and above, experienced increased problems and a decline in mobility while their happier counterparts were 80% less likely to experience similar declines.

My wife, Cindy is a testament to the power of positive thinking.  When she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 43 years ago, treatment options were limited and she was told that she could expect to live 20 years or less.  But Cindy has maintained a positive attitude. By doing so, she has out lived that prognosis by over 20 years.  Does that mean that she has not face difficult challenges?  No, the challenges have been numerous and difficult, but a positive attitude has enable us to find solutions and maintain a lifestyle that could be envied by more able-bodied individuals.

This morning as Max and I completed our run, I remembered the words of Groucho Marx. “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

Let me help you create a more positive atmosphere in your organization, give me a call. “Let me inspire you.”