November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize, support, and raise awareness of the dedication and hard work of family caregivers. In America, family members are the number one support system for older adults, people with disabilities, and ailing individuals. It can be difficult work, and it often goes unrecognized.
How did this national observance come into existence?
National Family Caregivers Month originated from the work of the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), a non-profit focused on engaging, supporting, empowering, and providing resources to the caregiving community. The organization started promoting national recognition of family caregivers in 1994.
Why is it important?
There are over 53 million Americans who are caregivers to family, friends, and neighbors. Many caregivers provide unpaid care to an aging or sick family member while also working a full- or part-time job, raising children, and completing their own household duties and chores.
The monetary, physical, and emotional stress and pressure of conflicting responsibilities can be intense. Often this dedication and struggle is overlooked by society.
According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), an organization that offers services, research, and education for older adults and people living with disabilities, research shows that caregiving: “…takes a significant emotional, physical, and financial toll. With nearly half of all caregivers over age 50, many are vulnerable to a decline in their own health. Studies show that coordinated support services can reduce caregiver depression, anxiety, and stress, and enable them to provide care longer, which avoids or delays the need for costly institutional care.”
The more that families and communities support and help caregivers, the more likely it is that everyone can benefit and be happier and healthier.
Top 10 Tips for Family Caregivers, courtesy of the Caregiver Action Network:
- Remember that you are not alone. Seek out other caregivers to find support and swap stories and advice. Join an online forum if you don’t know anyone personally who is a caregiver.
- Make your own health a priority, too. It’s easy to put everyone else first, but don’t forget that it’s important that you are mentally and physically healthy enough to take care of your loved
- Accept offers of help from friends and family members. Suggest specific actions people can take to help you.
- Don’t be afraid to advocate for your loved one’s needs and communicate effectively with doctors.
- Take breaks when needed. Caregiving is hard work, and there is nothing wrong with taking mental and physical breaks.
- Be aware of the signs of depression and don’t delay getting professional help if needed.
- Consider the use of new technology that can help you care for a loved one.
- Organize medical information so it’s up to date and all in one place.
- Ensure legal documents are in order and easy to access.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself credit for doing one of the hardest jobs out there.
If interested in learning more or supporting this important national observance, visit the Caregiver Action Network’s website. They have a plethora of National Family Caregivers Month materials available for general use, including a media kit, posters, sample proclamations, and more.
- The Caregiver Action Network has a variety of online forums to explore, whether you’re a new caregiver, dealing with isolation and frustration, suffering from caregiver-related depression, and more.
- American Red Cross has training programs for family caregivers. Check with your local chapter to find specific classes.
- Simply Medical has a page dedicated to caregiver essentials so you can shop for everything you need—from underpads and wipes to body wash and bandages—all in one place.
- Eldercare Locator helps users find aging resources in their specific city and state.
- The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers help families tackle the challenges associated with caring for aging parents or loved ones.
- Patient Advocate Foundation helps resolve issues between patients and their insurers, employers, and/or creditors.