November is National Family Caregiver Month, a time to thank and support the over 40 million Americans who act as volunteer caregivers for a family member. Being a caregiver is one of the most difficult and significant roles someone can take on. It can be exceptionally rewarding, but it is also a difficult task full of challenges and hard work.
Caregivers have a huge responsibility, and their role is constantly changing - they have to learn to adapt and be continually flexible to the needs of their loved one. From medication management to staying on top of doctor visits, medical papers, helping with transportation, the activities of daily living, home upkeep, and so much more, caregivers do a lot.
As we celebrate national family caregivers month, we send appreciation and thanks to all those who have taken on the rewarding task of caring for a loved one in need.
In a recent presidential proclamation, President Joe Biden stated:
"This week, we recognize the love and sacrifice of millions of American caregivers. They are the backbone of our country, caring for young children, aging parents, disabled veterans, injured service members, and others who need support and medical assistance. Let us celebrate and honor our caregivers and renew our efforts to protect their dignity, health, and security...
...During National Family Caregivers Month, we honor the Americans who lift up our communities and our Nation by providing dignified, professional, and invaluable care to the people we cherish the most."
The Challenges of Being a Family Caregiver:
Family caregivers often take on a multi-faceted role that includes everything from organizer to physical helper. More often than not, this role is physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding.
Because of this, being a caregiver for a loved one or family member can be exhausting. Most family caregivers also have full time or part time jobs, may have other family members at home to take care of - like children - and have the full weight of their own lives to maintain while also assisting with their loved ones’. Many adult children will become caregivers for their parents, in-laws, or older relatives, taking on the role of caregiver on top of everything else in their life.
While it can be exceptionally rewarding, and loving to support someone in need of care, it tends to come at a high cost for the carer. Not only is it a strain on your time, it can be mentally and physically challenging. Family caregivers often run the risk of neglecting their own health and well-being, whether that is physical health or mental health.
Making tough decisions, spending long hours, and assisting someone who needs constant or part time care can lead to burnout. And what’s worse, a lot of family caregivers feel guilt when they express any of the feelings of mental tiredness, frustration, or physical exhaustion. These feelings are completely normal, though. No matter how much you love a family member or friends that you care for, burnout can happen. it is normal, and it is okay. Better yet, there is help!
Support and Resources for Caregivers:
There are a number of resources and support groups available for family care providers. From the Caregiver Action Network to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are organizations and initiatives that help support caregivers and all they do. The community of others in a support group can help you navigate difficult situations, or simply have others to lean on who may have gone through similar experiences. Resources from health care or mental health professionals can help you navigate difficulties such as supporting someone with Alzheimer’s disease, or understanding different disabilities. Additionally, having mental or emotional support can help those in caregiver roles feel understood, appreciated and valued, as well as offer mental reprieve from the stress and consistency of full-time caregiving.
When it comes to caring for seniors or older adults, there are specific avenues that can help relieve some of the pressure from family caregivers.
Respite care is a short-term senior living option that allows family caregivers to take a step back from primary caregiving, so they can recharge, partake in self-care, and receive assistance with the care of their loved one. Individuals in respite care get all the help and assistance a long-term resident would, but over a shorter period of time. This allows the caregiver the time to recharge or focus on other pressing matters, while the loved one experiences exceptional care at the hands of professional caregivers and senior home team members.
Long term care and community living may also be helpful options. These senior living communities are fully equipped with professional caregivers, nursing staff, or assistance as needed who can help ease the weight of caregiving and offer longer term solutions and care options to loved ones.
Family caregivers across the country play a vital role in the lives and wellbeing of their loved ones. Their heart, hard work and love for family can be seen through the impactful work they do each and every day. This month, we celebrate nfc month and show our appreciation for all that they do for their loved ones.