If you have ever been in the position of providing ongoing, long-term care for a loved one, you are very familiar with the sacrifices involved. You should also know that you are not alone. Whether it is a result of illness, disability, or injury, 39 percent of all adult Americans are caring for an older loved one - an increase from 30 percent in 2010.
Most older-adults would prefer to age in place. We know this to be true, and it makes sense. It’s a more comfortable, familiar environment. However, it does come with its own stressors and challenges as 80 percent of the care for the elderly is provided by family, friends and neighbors. Every November we take time to recognize Caregiver Appreciation Month. It is a time to acknowledge and appreciate all those around us who go the extra mile to take care of others.
If you are a caregiver, know that Fairfax County has support services that can help as you continue on the caregiving journey. The Long Term Coordinating Care Council is a wonderful resource to start. You can visit the website at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/ltccc/. Another option, a phone line, 703-324-7948, is the Services for Older Adults. There you will reach social workers that can help you navigate through the myriad of resources available. The Fairfax County 50+ initiative is also looking to help develop additional services and resources for caregivers. Please contact my office to learn more about the progress of these programs. You may also consider reaching out to ElderLink, a nonprofit organization created by a partnership of the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, the Inova Health System, and the Alzheimer's Association, that seeks to provide affordable care management services to older adults. They can be reached at 703-324-7948. Another helpful resource is the Caregiver Action Network website. It offers a variety of tips and tools - http://www.caregiveraction.org/resources/toolbox/.
I also hope that my show this month on Fairfax County Channel 16, which features several personal caregivers, will help those who find themselves in the position of providing care. The show airs throughout the month and can be seen Sundays at 5 p.m., Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Fridays at 5 p.m.
It is very important to remember that you must take care of yourself first in order to provide the best level of care to your patient or loved one. It is very easy to become consumed with trying to finish all tasks only to find that many more are waiting. Develop a support network. Find respite and relaxation for yourself. If you are not a caregiver today, you may become one. So reach out to help if you can. By working together, we can build communities ready to serve our neighbors.