Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady and known for her mental health research, once said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”A caregiver is anyone who takes care of a disabled, chronically ill or aged family member or friend. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, in 2009, 29 percent of the U.S. population was taking care of a loved one. About 66 percent of caregivers are women, and more than 37 percent of those women have kids or grandchildren under the age of 18. Caregivers spend an average of 20 hours a week taking care of their loved one, though 13 percent of caregivers spend up to 40 hours a week. Deborah Crowther, who works for the Bear River Association of Governments (BRAG) Area Agency on Aging, said the value of services caregivers give free would add up to $375 billion a year. This is almost twice as much that is spent on home care and nursing home services.Crowther encourages caregivers to get out and do something for themselves on a regular basis.”They need to take care of themselves so they can take care of their loved ones,” Crowther said.With all the balls caregivers are trying to juggle, it’s easy for them to feel isolated and develop depression or other health problems. However, Crowther, who cares for her own mother, said caregiving is an overall positive experience. Caregivers have “love, determination and responsibility,” Crowther said.”They do some amazing things,” she said. The community needs to be aware of the needs of caregivers, Crowther said. Often, people are reluctant to allow others to help them, she said, but a community member can ask a caregiver to make a list of things they can use some help with so the caregiver doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Some funding is available to caregivers for supplemental services and adaptive equipment. Caregivers can get in touch with Caregiver Services through BRAG to be put on the applicant list for such services. BRAG also offers support groups for caregivers and their loved one. For caregivers in the Cache area, BRAG has a support group in conjunction with Alpine. The group meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Cache County Senior Citizen Center. A music therapist comes to these meetings, and all caregivers in the area are welcome.There is also a support group for the Box Elder area at the Brigham Senior Center every second and fourth Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon. More information can be found by contacting the BRAG Area Agency on Aging, 752-7242.
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