On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and one of the most often forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
Most older persons with long-term care needs—65%—rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance.1 Another 30% will supplement family care with assistance from paid providers.2 Care provided by family and friends can determine whether older persons can remain at home. In fact, 50% of the elderly who have a long-term care need but no family available to care for them are in nursing homes, while only 7% who have a family caregiver are in institutional settings.3
At 89, my dad was a stubborn force of nature. He had been taking care of my mother at home for some 14 years. Mom was also 89, had been Dad’s wife for 66 years, and she was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.