Whether it’s for their own parents at home or for residents of our senior living communities, caregivers give countless hours to improve the quality of life for others. They do it every day with sincere compassion, love, and commitment, many times to their own detriment.
To raise awareness of caregivers’ needs, November has been recognized as National Family Caregivers Month every year since 1994. The celebration began as a result of the Caregiver Action Network’s efforts, and it has since spread throughout the nation with annual presidential proclamations and multiple awareness efforts.
The month is dedicated to four main goals:
1. Raising awareness of family caregiver issues
2. Celebrating the efforts of caregivers
3. Educating family caregivers about self-identification
4. Increasing support for caregivers
If you have a caregiver in your life, this is the perfect time of the year to show your appreciation and support. If you are a caregiver, we would like to take this time to thank you for all you do.
Caring for the Caregiver
There are more than 65 million caregivers across America, and 90 percent are family members. Being a caregiver is an extremely demanding job, one that takes its toll on caregivers’ bodies and minds.
If your friend or loved one is a caregiver, there are numerous ways you can help them daily.
• Simply ask if you can help them. You don’t necessarily have to care for their loved one on their behalf, but you can care for the caregiver. Offer to wash their car, drive their children to activities, or help the caregivers with their banking needs.
• Say “thank you” and do it frequently.
• Continue to be the friend that the caregiver needs, even if it’s just by listening to their concerns.
• Continue to invite them to social events, even if they are often too busy to attend. Knowing they have not lost their support system of family and friends will prevent them from becoming overly focused on caregiving.
• Kind gestures go a long way, and this National Family Caregivers Month is the opportune time to celebrate the caregivers in your life. Some things you can do include buying them flowers, giving them gift cards or handmade greeting cards of appreciation, planning a day at the spa for them, and treating the caregiver to dinner while someone else stays with the individual who needs care.
• Stock up the caregiver’s freezer at his or her own home, as he or she might not have time to shop.
• Offer to deep clean the house or hire someone to do the job.
• If you know the house needs a significant repair, have a handyman tackle the project.
Caring for Yourself
Caregiver overload is a significant concern. Caregivers give so selflessly that they are known to feel guilty for feeling anxiety, but that shouldn’t be the case. If you are a caregiver, remember that you can’t care for your loved one if you don’t care for yourself first. Your own quality of life indeed should be important to you, so don’t feel guilty for taking care of your own needs.
The following 10 tips for family caregivers are based on recommendations from the Caregiver Action Network.
1. Seek support from other caregivers. It’s OK to ask for help.
2. Take care of your own health by maintaining healthy eating habits, staying active, keeping up with your appearance, and minimizing any unnecessary stressors.
3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do.
4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
5. Take respite breaks often.
6. Watch for signs of depression within yourself, and don’t delay getting professional help.
7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
8. Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
9. Make sure legal documents are in order.
10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can. Caregiving is one of the toughest jobs out there. Don’t get down on yourself when it feels challenging, because it truly is challenging.