November is a month filled with thanks. We thank our Veteran’s for their service on Veteran’s Day, we celebrate gratefulness all month long through social media-driven initiatives like #30daysofthanks and of course, Thanksgiving itself. There is one more group that is recognized during the month of November that we believe deserve all the thanks possible… caregivers.
What began in 1994 as a week-long event started by the Caregiver Action Network, is now a month-long event that is celebrated each November to honor family caregivers across the nation. This year, the theme for National Family Caregiver’s Month is “Caregiving Around the Clock”. By celebrating National Family Caregiver’s Month, we can raise awareness for caregiver issues, celebrate the efforts of family caregivers, educate others about caregiving and increase support for caregivers.
In the United States today, it is estimated that 43.5 million people have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. The value of services provided by informal caregivers has steadily increased over the last ten years with an estimated economic value of $470 billion in 2013, up from $450 billion in 2009 and those numbers are steadily rising.
Patients with traumatic brain injuries, those recovering from a stroke or neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease add an additional layer of concerns to the caregiver. Emotional, mental and physical health problems can arise from the stress of complex caregiver situations, so it is important to remember that the caregiver needs time for self-care as well.
There are many resources available to caregivers today and many valuable pieces of information and education can be found online on the Family Caregiver Alliance and the Caregiver Action Network’s websites. To help celebrate National Family Caregiver’s Month, we leave you with ten tips for family caregivers and urge you to take a moment to thank a caregiver in your life.
- Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
- Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
- Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
- Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
- Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks often.
- Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay getting professional help when you need it.
- Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
- Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
- Make sure legal documents are in order.
- Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!