November is National Family Caregivers Month. President Barack Obama and his office at the White House want to acknowledge and support family caregivers. It is recognized that caregivers frequently go without financial compensation for their many hours of love, attention, and energy. Thus, the White House press release noted that this month is dedicated to celebrating "those who give of themselves to be there for their family, friends, and neighbors in challenging times." Below are some ways to celebrate National Family Caregivers Month.
In many families, caregiving comes at personal expense. Time, money, and energy that would otherwise go toward other activities get redirected to care for a loved one. Many caregivers are happy to commit these resources to help a senior live a longer, happier life. However, small tokens of affection are a great way to give back. A gift card for a free holiday season latte, a new shirt celebrating their favorite superhero, or a back rub after a stressful day can all help. These small remembrances help a family caregiver feel appreciated. Working with the senior in the person's care, a letter of appreciation or a photo album of memories can be created. This personalized gift is designed to thank the caregiver in a special way for his or her hard work.
Caregivers experience stress, fatigue, and burnout if they do not practice self-care. However, self-care can be hard to come by. This is especially true when care is round-the-clock, a job is stressful, or children need to be raised too. A wonderful way to celebrate National Family Caregivers Month is by giving a caregiver a break! It may be twenty minutes, a whole day, or an entire weekend. A break in the routine, a chance to kick back and do something fun can make a huge difference in the life of a family caregiver, especially since the person knows the elderly loved one is in safe hands. Taking a senior who is in someone's care to a movie, the mall, the grocery store, or to a doctor's appointment can provide a welcome breather. Even those small moments when a caregiver can take a long, hot shower, cook a meal alone, or read a book quietly can bring immense amounts of peace and relaxation.
This is a practice that can even (and probably should) become regular year-round. It is important to remember that caregivers who are highly stressed, exhausted, or unhappy are not at their best. Reminding a caregiver, including one's self, to take restful breaks can change a caregiver's whole experience. Setting up a date night for the caregiver and spouse,or designating one day a month when another family member takes over caregiving for twenty-four hours, can give a caregiver respite. He or she can take the time to de-stress and de-clutter. In the end, this will make him or her a better caregiver.
As modern superheroes, caregivers often need a team to accomplish their goals. Rather than going it alone, caregivers should take time during National Family Caregivers Month to join a team. Like Captain America or Batman, they might want to consider assembling one. Many families and communities have the ability to become a true caregiving team. This is sometimes called a circle of care, and it also includes healthcare professionals. Often, pressure mounts on caregivers because of ignorance. For example, a family caregiver might not know that a local religious group holds monthly social events for seniors. Family members who are not involved in the care of a senior relative might not be aware of the stress of caregiving. A conference call or chatroom can be set up so that others become aware of how they can help the family caregiver on a regular basis. In addition, useful information can be exchanged. Even such small gestures can play a large cumulative role in helping caregivers get time to attend to themselves. Doing the legwork of making phone calls, filling out paperwork, or researching on the Internet for available programs are ways to offer support.
Remember, also, that family caregivers are affected by political regulations. Participating in the political process by reading up on local movements regarding seniors and caregiving is a vital means of support. Identifying the needs of seniors and their caregivers and demanding that local officials and agencies respond to those needs is a way to celebrate National Family Caregivers Month. For example, some regulations could expand or remove benefits eligibility and are hotly contested on a national scale. Knowing the stance of local officials and holding them accountable shows support for caregivers.
No matter what other actions people take to celebrate National Family Caregivers Month, taking time to verbally thank caregivers for their hard work is essential. The presidential proclamation declaring this November National Family Caregiver's Month said it well."This month, and every month, let us lift up all those who work to tirelessly advance the health and wellness of those they love."
Obama, Barack. (October 31, 2016). Presidential Proclamation--National Family Caregivers Month, 2016. The White House Office of the Press Secretary. Available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/10/31/presidential-proclamation-national-family-caregivers-month-2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
The Huffington Post. National Family Caregivers Month. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/national-family-caregivers-month/. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
Walsh, Catherine. (October 29, 2016). National Family Caregivers Month. FiftyPlusAdvocate.com. Available at http://www.fiftyplusadvocate.com/archives/11184. Retrieved November 4, 2016.