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Help and advice available for caregivers

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By Joan Martin

You probably know someone who is a caregiver to a parent, spouse or adult child. Some caregivers are retired and caring for a parent and a spouse.
Many middle-aged adults are finding themselves caring and supporting two generations — their children and their aging parents.
While caregiving can be very rewarding, it often can bring additional emotional, physical and financial stresses for caregivers as they try to balance a career, parenting and elder care.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 520,000 Kentucky informal caregivers provide 570 million hours of care each year. The estimated value of this care is worth more than $5.4 billion.
This support is most often geared toward seniors by middle-aged daughters, who are balancing a full-time job on top of their other daily responsibilities.  
Here are a few tips for handling the physical and emotional stresses related to caregiving:
Recognize how you handle stress and what is stressing you. Put your stressors into perspective and make time for what is really important.
Remember you also need to take care of yourself.
Take physical and emotional breaks from caregiving, such as going for a walk or reading a book.
Ask for help, including professional support.
Remember that the example you set by handling your stress is a model for the rest of your family.
Reducing financial stress requires honesty between all parties involved in the caregiving process (your parents, your children and yourself). You should analyze your financial situation and be honest with your parents about how much financial support you can provide to them now and in the future.
Your parents need to be honest with you about their monthly expenses. Reviewing your parents’ expenses may help you find ways where they can cut costs.
If you have minor children at home, it’s a good idea to share with the children, according to their level of understanding, that some of your time and money goes to caring for your aging parents. Make sure your children know that you will have time for them.  
You may also want to seek support and advice from geriatric care managers, elder care lawyers and financial planners. Get current information instead of relying on what you may have heard several years ago.
The University of Kentucky Extension Service has just started writing a Family Caregiver Health Bulletin. The first issue is August 2012. It will be posted on the Anderson County Extension website or it can be mailed to your home.
Call the Extension office at 839-7271 for more information. Additional resources for caregivers include AARP’s website http://www.aarp.org/ and eXtension’s Family Caregiving website http://www.extension.org/family_caregiving.

Joan Martin is a family and consumer sciences agent at the Anderson Extension office.