Are you a caregiver? Ask yourself the question again, but really think about it this time. Do you provide in-home care services to an older family member or friend? Do you provide a loved one assistance with tasks like bathing, dressing or transportation? Do you help a loved one pay their bills, speak with medical professionals, make meals or complete housework? Many people are caregivers without even realizing that’s what they are doing. For some, it’s just part of their everyday activities. For others, caregiving is done long-distance from another city, county or state. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 43.5 million adult family caregivers provide care for someone 50 years of age and over.

Often caregivers are stressed or burned out from their role, which typically includes a full or part-time job, and caring for their own children as well as a parent. Others may do well balancing all of their tasks, but find they are ignoring their own needs and not taking care of themselves like they should.  Caregivers need to know that while their role is very important and selfless, they do not have to do it alone; there are caregiver support services (like the ones listed below) available to help.

Caregiver Resource Network:

The Caregiver Resource Network (CRN) is a hidden treasure for caregivers in West Michigan and beyond. The CRN is a collaboration of over 150 agencies dedicated to serving family caregivers. The CRN operates a website providing caregivers with an extensive catalog of resources including caregiver support groups by topic, time, and locations; articles covering issues like working while caregiving, caregiver health and wellness and long distance caregiving; and audio files on popular caregiver support topics.

The group also initiated Family Caregiver University which provides monthly classes on caregiving topics like fall prevention and safety, understanding dementia, and bathing and personal hygiene.

For more information on the CRN, visit www.caregiverresource.net or call (616) 456-5664.

Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan:

Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) is part of a nation-wide network to help older adults and their caregivers. AAAWM serves nine counties in Michigan (Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Osceola) and provides a number of senior care services to help older adults remain in their own homes by providing in home care services.

Caregiver support services include respite for an older adult (in their own home or at an adult day facility) to allow caregivers to go to work, shop, visit with a friend or simply relax while knowing their loved one is being well cared for.  The respite services provided to the older adult can vary from a social visit to cleaning or other household chores.  Classes on home maintenance (for female caregivers) and cooking (for male caregivers) are also available.

For more information on help for family caregivers visit www.aaawm.org/caregiver_help. To find an Area Agency on Aging in your area, visit the Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.gov.