An important November commemoration is National Family Caregivers Month. The Eastern Ohio Chiropractic Society calls attention to the significant and steadily growing portion of our population who are family caregivers.
Most of us are already aware that the American population is aging as the baby boomer generation grows older. Many of us may not recognize that the number of family caregivers is growing exponentially.
An estimated 29 percent of the U.S. population cares for a sick, disabled or aged family member. Two-thirds of these family caregivers are women. Approximately 1.3 million Ohioans are family caregivers. Family caregiving is no longer short-term and episodic; indeed, the average length of family caregiving is 4.5 years. These family caregivers are a vital, uncompensated and often invisible part of American society.
Yet far too often family caregivers lack the training, equipment and outside support necessary to care for loved ones safely. Consequently, many injure their own backs, necks and shoulders while lifting, turning or supporting a family member.
To compound the issue, a family caregiver can't call in sick or take a day off from responsibilities. They may turn to over-the-counter or prescription medications for relief, but these only mask the symptoms and do not address the cause. Worse yet, a medicated person may unknowingly and greatly aggravate their injury because they have short-circuited the activity-limiting benefit of pain.
Chiropractic professionals frequently see home caregivers and we know that the best weapon against these injuries is prevention. We believe it is critical for family caregivers to improve body motion with daily, specific stretch exercises; improve strength and physical conditioning with regular cardiovascular and strengthening exercises; maintain a healthy diet and engage in stress-reducing activities like yoga.
When family caregivers come to us with existing neck, back and extremity problems, doctors of chiropractic provide treatments that improve function and allow the body to heal itself naturally rather than relying on medications that only serve to mask symptoms.
Patrick A. Ensminger
Chiropractic physician and secretary,
Eastern Ohio Chiropractic Society