“Caregiver” is kind of a strange word. It’s brand new — basically, it didn’t exist before 1960 — and so we don’t all use it the same way. When a mom is looking after her child, is she a caregiver? Well, certainly she’s giving care, but she probably doesn’t think of herself as a “caregiver”. And that same thing is true for those of us who take care of our elderly relatives. For most of us of a certain generation, taking care of your parents — whether that’s calling them every day to make sure they’ve taken their medicine, shopping for groceries, or having them move into your home — is just something you do, not something that needs a name.
But the fact is, performing any of those things, as simple as some of them may be, does mean that you are a caregiver. And it’s important that you acknowledge that to yourself. Professional caregivers, such as nurses, receive a lot of training. Parents raising kids have access to doctors, books, and perhaps most importantly, their own parents and relatives. But when it comes to caring for the elderly, the natural support system is much smaller. Just the simple fact of acknowledging yourself as a caregiver — that what you’re doing is an important role — can be tremendously valuable to your self-esteem and general mental well-being.
In fact, to quote the Ohio Department on Aging, “according to the National Family Caregivers Association, more than 90 percent of people who recognize themselves as caregivers become more proactive, engaged and confident, and provide better care as a result. Caregivers who access and use support services also report fewer negative emotions, such as depression, anxiety and anger.”
Thankfully, in Ohio, you have a lot of resources available to you, to provide just such support services. A great place to start is your local Area Agency on Aging. You can find your nearest one here.
Do yourself a favor — acknowledge yourself as a caregiver, and reach out for the support that’s available to you. Even if you’re only doing simple things to help your parents, talking to others in a similar position can do wonders for you.
Michael J. Millonig
Certified as an Elder Law Attorney
by the National Elder Law Foundation since 1998
OSBA Board Certified Estate Planning
Trust and Probate Specialist
Any legal information communicated in this blog is a general statement of the law. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be relied upon to answer any specific questions concerning your own circumstances or for purposes of legal planning. These communications are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Please contact my office for an appointment if you have any legal questions.