HOUSTON - Recent studies found many caregivers, who care for aging or sick family members, had less support and more stress during the pandemic. That's compounded at the holidays, as COVID-19 cases are rising.
A study by NORC at the University of Chicago found nearly one-fifth of U.S. adults were caregivers for an older family member or friend during the pandemic.
Any caregiver will tell you that it's a very stressful responsibility that can take over your life.
"When I became a caregiver, along with my mom caring for my grandmother, it was the number one thing we needed. We just wanted a human to speak to get that advice," said Bianca Padilla, who founded Carewell.com.
The surge in COVID-19 cases at the holidays is sandwiching caregivers between caring for children and aging or ill loved ones.
"What’s extra stressful for them is they are looking out not only for themselves but this older adult or someone with dementia that is at the highest risk," said Katie Scott, President of CarePartners Texas.
And caregivers rarely ask for help.
"They don’t in fact, ask for help, and this is my number one piece of advice," said Padilla. "Most people don’t know what you’re going through."
There are easy ways to help a caregiver over the holidays and beyond.
"Say what can I give?" asked Scott. "Can I give time? Can I give money? Can I give food?"
You can provide a break.
"This could be a ten-minute phone call," said Scott. "It could be a trip to a spa, or to the golf course, while you arrange for someone to be with that person, either yourself or someone else to come in."
Or just lend an ear.
"Just provide a listening ear. Don’t problem-solve. Just be there to say I want to hear you," said Scott.
And tips for caregivers: have medications and supplies to last through January 2nd, remember you can use funds in a Flex Spending Account before year's end, have medical contact information if the doctor is away.
And if the caregiver is going to be away, "Set up a check-in schedule with other family members and friends so the loved one you’re caring for can rely on someone checking in on them through the holidays," said Padilla.
Here are support groups and resources for caregivers:
Carewell is a business that sells caregiving supplies and offers a hotline for questions.
"They are trained caregiving specialists who are available 24/7 in English and Spanish, to answer any questions you have around caring for your loved one," said Padilla.