Eric Tegethoff, Oregon News Service
PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize the important role these folks play in many people's lives.
There are about 460,000 family caregivers in Oregon, providing care worth nearly $6 billion a year, according to AARP Oregon.
In doing this loving work, Vicki Schmall, an AARP Oregon volunteer and former Oregon State University professor of gerontology, says caregivers often neglect their own health.
She says if anybody knows a caregiver, reach out to see what he or she needs, and offer support or encouragement to get it from others.
"Finding out where they could really use the help," Schmall explains. "It may be as simple as getting groceries for them, or the importance of having a weekly break where they can just get out of the home and do something that's relaxing and enjoyable for them, even if it's for a couple of hours."
An AARP survey of Oregonians 40 and older finds nearly half are current or former caregivers and that caregivers provide a range of support, including transportation, meal preparation and complex medical tasks.
Schmall says respite care is available for Oregonians who need a break from their duties.
She also notes that disease awareness organizations, such as the Alzheimer's Association, have support groups that bring together folks who understand the struggles of caregiving.
"Plus, caregivers often receive support, and a caregiver who may have been through a similar situation will be able to help you deal with a situation that you may be going through as a caregiver," she points out.
Schmall adds it's important for people to understand their limitations and know when the care a loved one needs is greater than they can provide.
She says folks can still be important caregivers even if they aren't providing hands-on attention.