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Are You a Caregiver?
By Emily Anderson

For many people, the word "caregiver" conjures the image of a professional, probably in scrubs, paid to provide help to an older person. When we tell people who are taking care of a parent, spouse, or friend that they are a "caregiver," we often get the response, "No, I'm just doing what a good child/spouse/friend does."

But what would happen if you weren't there? Would Grandma get her medications? Would Dad be able to get to his appointments? Would your neighbor shovel his own sidewalk in the winter? Would Auntie manage her own checkbook smoothly? Would Mom forget to turn the stove off?

The help you provide to your loved one is invaluable to our society, and combined with the efforts of other people in similar situations, is worth about $450 billion per year in the U.S. We rely on the things you do out of the goodness of your heart or a sense of duty, whether they are as small as checking on someone or as large as helping someone bathe and dress every day. So we gave you a title: Caregivers!

You might think you are doing what any decent person would do, and for many people it's a source of great joy ... but it's also a source of stress and sleepless nights and lots of running around. By recognizing yourself as a caregiver for someone you love, you acknowledge the important role you play in their life and gain access to many supportive resources for yourself and for your loved one.

Emily Anderson, LSW, is a Care Coach for Familylinks Caregivers First Initiative.

If you care for an older adult in Allegheny County and could use some help dealing with stress, Familylinks' Caregivers First Initiative can help with tips and resources, free of charge. Contact us at (412) 924-0400, or read more online on our Allegheny County Caregiver Resources blog: caregiverblog.familylinks.org.

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