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Caring for Caregivers: Holidays Add Stress for Family of Sick and Aging

Photo: Lou Henderson spent 20 years caring for his wife and recently decided to place her in assisted care. Photo credit: Holly Pilson
Photo: Lou Henderson spent 20 years caring for his wife and recently decided to place her in assisted care. Photo credit: Holly Pilson
November 17, 2014

MAXTON, N.C. – For every twinkle of a holiday light and crinkle of wrapping paper, there's stress associated with this time of year, especially for the thousands of North Carolinians who care for a loved one.

Adding to their concern are waiting lists for existing services across the state that help support family caregivers.

Lou Henderson of Maxton understands the stress of being a caregiver.

After caring for his ailing wife for 20 years, he made the tough decision to place her in a nursing facility.

"It got to the place where it was affecting me more than it was her, so I had to do something or I was going to be ended up somewhere,” he relates. “It's not sad. It's just something I knew I had to do."

November is National Family Caregivers Month.

According to AARP, there are an estimated 42 million caregivers in the U.S. There are resources available to help people care for their loved ones, and many of them can be found at caregivers.org.

Bob Palombo, president of AARP North Carolina, is cares for his mother. He says the holidays are a particular time of stress for caregivers as they juggle holiday and family obligations and his organization is doing what it can to reach out to them.

"Caregivers don't always ask for help,” he says. “They do it because it's a service to their parent or relative and they don't like to seek help in all cases, and we need to be able to provide the information and resources for them."

Nationwide, it's estimated family caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of unpaid care to aging relatives and friends.

Palombo says state lawmakers should recognize the financial value of the service caregivers provide.

"Those caregivers save the state millions and millions of dollars by taking care of that as opposed to someone going into another facility,” he points out. “We need to help these seniors."

Experts say it's important for caregivers to recognize the signs of stress and burnout in taking care of their loved ones, find support from others and ask for help.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC