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In the Midst of Holiday Stress, A Celebration of Family Caregivers

The Aging Disability Resource Center of Oregon is helpful for caregivers looking for time off from their duties. (Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock)
The Aging Disability Resource Center of Oregon is helpful for caregivers looking for time off from their duties. (Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock)
November 19, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. — This month is National Family Caregivers Month, a celebration of the hard work caregivers do across the country.

In Oregon, there are nearly 470,000 unpaid caregivers providing what would amount to $5.7 billion in work each year. And 3-in-4 caregivers actually use money out of their own pockets to care for loved ones, spending nearly one-fifth of their income.

In addition to their regular duties, the holidays can be especially stressful for family caregivers. Ruby Haughton-Pitts, state director of AARP Oregon, said the holidays can make a caregiver's work doubly hard.

"If you think about going to work every day - full time, day-in, day-out - you look forward to the holidays and having time off. And sometimes for a caregiver there's no day off,” Haughton-Pitts said. “They're doing these things like bathing and preparing meals and making sure that people get their medications every single day of the year."

Haughton-Pitts pointed to the Aging Disability Resource Center of Oregon as a helpful local guide for people caring for a loved one. She praised the state for being one of the first to pass legislation requiring hospitals to offer training for family members so that they know how to care for someone after they're released.

Because the job is so intense, Haughton-Pitts noted that burnout is a reality for many caregivers. She said the Aging Disability Resource Center of Oregon and AARP's website offer "respite resources" so folks can take a break from their duties.

"Caregivers actually have to take care of themselves as well,” she said. “And so, there's an amount of self-care that's necessary in order to be a full-time caregiver."

Haughton-Pitts also said she wants to see the state pass paid family and medical leave so caregivers who are working have time off to care for their loved ones when needed.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR