November is National Family Caregivers Month
Are you one of the 43 million unpaid family caregivers caring for a loved one at home? If not, you probably know someone in your family who is caring for another loved one, neighbor or family friend. Caregiving is one of the highest demand jobs yet those who provide that critical service are regularly under-served, under-appreciated, definitely under paid and usually work around the clock to make sure a loved one is properly cared for.
The 2019 theme is “Be Care Curious“. It prompts us to ask questions, explore options and share in the care decisions that affect the health and well-being of their loved ones. Talk to your loved one about their health goals and what you can do to help achieve them. Talk to health care experts, research topics and treatments on the Internet and ensure your loved one follows the jointly developed care plan. Don’t be shy to discuss coverage options and determine if additional health insurance may be needed to best address your loved one’s health needs.
Many family caregivers work around the clock, 24-hours a day/7-days a week, especially when the loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia or a special needs situation. This type of caregiving can take a mental, physical and financial toll on the caregiver and their family. The stress and strain of providing care to a loved one needs to be carefully managed to avoid conditions like burnout, chronic illness, depression, and anxiety.
When a loved one needs care around the clock and a skilled nursing facility, assisted living center or privately hired caregiver is not possible then the family needs to develop a plan to provide that care. This includes:
- designating one person to be the primary caregiver who can organize a care plan, manage medications, arrange medical appointments, etc.
- having multiple people in the family committed to providing care, i.e. working in shifts (which reduces the strain and stress on the main caregiver)
- developing a financial plan to cover costs of medical visits, hospital coverage, medications, medical supplies, food and payment of basic bills, such as utilities, mortgage (if they are remaining in their own home)
- arranging medical paperwork where family members can locate them to include living wills, living trust, advanced directives, access to financial resources (checking, savings, health reimbursement accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, etc.) so bills can be paid on their behalf
Family caregiving is a very noble, selfless and loving service to provide. Family caregivers need to be recognized for their countless hours of work to make a loved one more comfortable while providing for their daily needs. Make sure family caregivers get the support and recognition they need from other family members, close friends and neighbors. There are also local community resources available where caregivers can go for respite care and support.
- Support groups on Caregiver.org available to caregivers
- Available resources on Eldercare.gov to caregivers locally
- Support groups on the National Alzheimer’s Organization available to those caring for dementia patients
- Treatment and support resources on Cancer.org available locally to caregivers and patients
- Family Caring resources available on AARP
The Caregiver Action Network
The Caregiver Action Network has some great resources for caregivers too.
Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is the nation’s leading family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for the more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age. CAN serves a broad spectrum of family caregivers ranging from the parents of children with special needs, to the families and friends of wounded soldiers; from a young couple dealing with a diagnosis of MS, to adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer’s disease. CAN (the National Family Caregivers Association) is a non-profit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge. (1)
The CAN goals each November are to (2):
Raise awareness of family caregiver issues
Celebrate the efforts of family caregivers
Educate family caregivers about self-identification
Increase support for family caregivers
The Caregiver Action Network started promoting the national recognition of the family caregivers month in 1994. President Clinton signed the first monthly Presidential Proclamation in 1997 with every president since following suit in November.
“Family members, friends, and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.”
President Barack Obama, NFC Month Proclamation 2012 (2)
Don’t forget to give your caregiver or someone you know who is a caregiver for a loved one a BIG HUG and very BIG THANK YOU for their all the love and selfless hours they put in providing care for a loved one, close friend or neighbor! A small token of appreciation or recognition is always welcome…and perhaps a day or night off to do something special for themselves would be great too.
THANK YOU for all your service!
- (1) – Caregiver Action Network (CAN) – About Us
- (2) – Caregiver Action Network (CAN) – National Family Caregivers Month Background
For more information on providing care to a loved one see our articles:
- Part I: When is a Caregiver Needed – the informal (family caregiver
- Part II: Hiring an Agency Caregiver – the formal caregiver