November is National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month. The theme for 2015 is “Respite: Care for Caregivers.” This theme is set as a reminder that caregivers need to also care for themselves.

The Caregiver Action Network has written out ways for caregivers to find respite:

R is for Rest and Relaxation

E as in Energize (or reenergize)

S as in Sleep

P is for Programs that can help you (finding support)

I as in Imagination (let your mind run free; read a book or see a movie)

T as in Take Five (take a few minutes for yourself)

E is for Exhale (taking a few deep breaths can give you more energy, reduce stress and lift your mood)

More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or aging family members during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. About 13% of family caregivers provide 40 hours of care a week or more. A majority of family caregivers, about 73%, also have a part-time or full-time job.

Family caregivers are under extreme stress which has been show to age them prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life. This could be in part due to the fact that nearly 72% of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves.

Research has also shown that caregiving for a person with dementia can impact a person’s immune system for up to three years after their caregiving ends which increases their chances of developing a chronic illness. About 23% of family caregivers caring for loved ones for 5 years or more report their health is fair or poor.

Research has shown that 20% of employed female caregivers over age 50 report symptoms of depression while only 8% of their non-caregiving peers report symptoms of depression. Between 40% and 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meets the diagnostic criteria for major depression.

All of these facts lead to the need for respite. So if you know someone who is a caregiver, encourage them to rest and relax, reenergize, sleep, find support,  let their mind run free, take a break, and take a breath.