Our familia can be great caregivers but they shouldn’t do it alone. Ten Holiday Tips for Caregivers.

{Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with AARP. All opinions are my own.}

There’s something I’ve watched happen in my family time after time. I’ve watched cousins care for my aunts and uncles as they age and become ill with various conditions. I’ve watched my aunts and uncles care for my grandparents, too. It’s so common for mi familia that I’ve never questioned the process. In the Latino community, this is what happens. No one ever talks of assisted living or nursing homes. The question becomes who will mom and/or dad live with when they are no longer able to live on their own.

I’ve personally only been the primary caregiver to my two young boys. However, when I was pregnant with my first son, I worked from home and lived 15 minutes from my grandparents. During that time, my grandfather was suffering from diabetes, a heart condition, and eventually his kidneys failed, too. My grandmother was his primary caretaker. I’d spend many days with them as I would drive them into the city to their doctors’ appointments or just stay at their home to keep them company.

Circulo de la Vida Grandpa and my son QueMeansWhat.com

After my son was born, we moved about an hour away from my grandparents for my husband’s job. Mis abuelitos weren’t alone. My uncle lived with my grandparents but worked a full-time, and at times, very demanding job. He helped and supported them tremendously yet he wasn’t able to be there during the day. I knew my grandma needed support to care for my grandpa. (She had her own health concerns.) Maybe it was because I missed them or maybe it was because I wanted my son to get to spend as much time with them as possible, I would pack up a week’s worth of clothes and diapers and my son and I would go stay at their home. And just try to help where we could. My son brought all the smiles and I offered as much support as I could.

Experiencing a glimpse of the toll it took on my grandma made me realize how much work it is to take care of someone who has fallen ill. I also realized how common my family’s situation is and how much addressing the needs of the caretaker is overlooked.

Today, it is my husband’s side of the family that is facing the health challenges of mi suegra. She lives with my sister-in-law. While my husband and I can offer all the support, help, and pretty much anything else she asks, we know my sister-in-law will ultimately be the primary caregiver as mi suegra lives in her home. All our kids are watching us now, it’s important that we support the entire family so they see that one person doesn’t burden all the responsibility.

Latinos as Caregivers

I’m sharing resources with her and with you because you, too, probably know of a caregiver who needs support. Or you ARE the caregiver who needs support. There are 42 million caregivers in the U.S. who are caring for parents and older loved ones. As we all know, during the holidays, stress can increase and that’s especially true for caregivers, many who are Latino.  More than one in three Hispanic households includes a caregiver according to research conducted by Evercare and the National Alliance for Caregiving, and Hispanic caregivers report more intensive caregiving situations compared to the general population (63 percent compared to 51 percent). During the holidays our hermano/as are caring for their loved ones as well as trying to make the holiday season meaningful and shop for gifts – usually more than one list (theirs and their loved one’s).

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that family members taking care of their parents in mi familia was so common, I never questioned it. That could be because, according to research by AARP, most Latinos don’t identify themselves as caregivers. Instead, as Evercare data notes, caring for an older parent or relative is seen as an expected cultural responsibility. And when we view it as our responsibility, we are less likely to ask for help.

Resources for Caregivers

It’s okay to seek help – at any level that you may need it. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with AARP’s Circulo de la Vida resource center. Please visit: http://prn.to/1wQ3iTF (Spanish) or http://prn.to/10Mmrg5 (English). You will find stories in which you may relate, tips from experts, news for caregivers and even local resources. For example, below are 10 Holiday Tips for Caregivers (you can find the full article from AARP here.)

  1. Recognize the signs of stress and burnout
  2. Anticipate your own holiday hot buttons
  3. Mind your own mind-set
  4. Keep self-care at the top of the list
  5. Know your own best stress outlets
  6. Connect with support
  7. Plan ahead and focus on what is most meaningful
  8. Ask for help for yourself and those you care for
  9. Simplify your holiday activities
  10. Start new traditions

While these tips are for the holidays, caregiving happens all year-round. Visit AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center for more information, support and resources. If you prefer to talk to someone, you can call AARP Phone: 1-877-333-5885 (1-888-971-2013 in Spanish) Monday-Friday: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. ET Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET. Don’t let caregivers do it alone. Our familia can be great caregivers but they shouldn’t do it alone.