Summary: National Family Caregiver month is designed to bring light to those who take care of their ill family and friends around the clock and assist them with their medical needs. Caregiving is growing as a job in the United States, as more and more people are aging and needing care who are also unable to afford the rising cost of in-home or in-facility care. Here you can learn about National Family Caregiver month and how you can get involved to support the caregivers in your life!
November is National Family Caregivers Month! This month we recognize the challenges family caregivers handle and face when their loved ones are in need. Caregivers often work twenty-four hours a day plus their regular work schedule and hours to support the household.
This special observance enables us to do the following:
- 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 began promoting national recognition of family caregivers in 1994. President Clinton signed the first National Family Caregivers Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997, and every president since has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation recognizing and honoring family caregivers in November.
The Caregiver Action Network is the nation’s leading family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for the more than ninety million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age. This agency serves a broad spectrum of family caregivers, from the parents of children with special needs and the families of wounded soldiers to a young couple dealing with a diagnosis of spina bifida and adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer’s disease. There is no limit to the type of support they assist with or help to provide. The nonprofit organization provides education, peer support and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge.
Family caregivers fulfill a variety of roles. In addition to becoming experts about their friend or loved ones’ health, they act as liaisons with healthcare providers, insurance companies, and legal and financial entities. They prepare food, perform housekeeping tasks, transportation and hygiene duties, and often provide very sophisticated care, including managing complex medication schedules. These caregivers sometimes deal with problem behaviors and offer socialization for those suffering from long-term illnesses. At this time of year, with holidays approaching, families are often overwhelmed by emotional distress as they cope with losses and memories of other, better times.
Families are truly the backbone of the long-term care system in the United States. But they are under great stress and do not always have the information they need when they take responsibility for a loved one’s care.
What are the most reported challenges that family caregivers face? How do they manage to handle them day and night? While at work?
- Morning: The average family caregiver is a working mother of school-aged children. Mornings become a tricky balancing act of getting the kids ready for school, making sure your loved one has what they need for the day, and then getting yourself out the door for work.
- Throughout the Day: Up to 70 percent of the time, the family caregiver manages the medications. The more serious the condition, the more likely it is that the family caregiver manages the medications for the patient. This means ensuring their loved one is taking medication correctly and maintaining an up-to-date medication list.
- During the Workday: Six out of 10 family caregivers work full or part time in addition to juggling their caregiving responsibilities at home. Most say they have to cut back on working hours, take a leave of absence, or quit their job entirely.
- Evening: Evenings are for family time and mealtime. Nutrition is as important for caregivers as it is for their loved ones. Proper nutrition helps maintain strength, energy, stamina and a positive attitude.
- Late at Night: This might be the only time that family caregivers get a few minutes for themselves to rest and recharge. The chance to take a breather and re-energize is vital so they can be as good a caregiver tomorrow as they were today.
- Middle of the Night: If loved ones may need to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night on occasion, family caregivers should be prepared ahead of time with what they need to know and what they need to have with them.
As a part of the effort to support caregivers to ensure they are fit for and up to the job of caring for their friend or loved one, these are some of the top facts all caregivers should know.
- Help is available to you whenever you need it! It may not be simple to get, and you will need to reach out and ask for exactly what you need- but it IS there for you to utilize! Check in to the National Alliance for Caregiving and your local health department for details.
- Caregiving is costly! Over half of all caregivers have reported that the expenses they incurred while caregiving depleted their savings accounts almost entirely. Being prepared for these changes and impacts can help you to avoid losing part of your savings.
- Full knowledge of the job can make it flow more smoothly and a bit easier. Those caregivers who reported in stated that following a passion or hobby helped them to ease the stress levels they were facing. Reading books and magazines about caregiving also helped to educate them with tips and tricks on how to lighten the load.
- In-home caregivers are now the United States’ number one long-term care provider. Over ninety percent of those needing care are residing in a home with their family member as a caregiver.
- You are not alone. There are more than seventy million Americans currently providing care for their disabled, sick, or aging loved one on a yearly basis right now.
- You can take a break, or a weekend away. Committing to take care of your person does not mean that you cannot take the breaks and vacations you so rightfully deserve. Respite care is something that can step in on a short-term, or long-term basis, for those who need extended breaks, or time to rejoin the workforce temporarily to build the bank accounts back up. Adult daycares can also assist with daytime breaks. These sort of services allow the caregiver to know and trust that their person is in capable and safe hands while they take the time to regroup and recharge.
- All humans have limits, including you. While many caregivers wear a brave face and do it all, every human has limits. Reaching these limits can cause burnout, extra stress, and stress within the patient-caregiver relationship. Know and acknowledge your limits. When you are getting close to them, take a break, or phone a friend.
- Reach out and communicate with other caregivers. In the United States, there are thousands of groups that meet in every state, in almost every town. Check in with your local hospitals on the groups they have record of and find one that fits with your situation and what you are looking for.
- Take care of yourself, FIRST. If you are not happy or healthy, you will not be able to provide the right type of care for your person. By maintaining your own physical, emotional, and mental health, you assure that the relationship between the two of you stays strong, manageable and respectful at all times.
- Your work is valuable. This unpaid care that over seventy million people provide their person is estimated to be worth over $400 billion dollars.
If you are a caregiver, how has being a caregiver affected or changed your life? Do you think there are other bits of information or facts that caregivers like yourself should know? We would love to hear from you! Contact us with your tips, information and suggestions for caregivers around the world!
Caregiver Action Network
National Alliance for Caregiving