In 1994, the National Family Caregivers Association started promoting a celebration of family caregivers during the week of Thanksgiving. President Clinton signed the first presidential proclamation in 1997, and every president since has issued a special proclamation showing appreciation for family caregivers. As more and more people began to honor caregivers nationwide, National Family Caregivers Week became National Family Caregiver’s Month.
Today, the entire month of November is reserved for special recognition of the family caregiver. These are more than 65 million people in America who unselfishly care for their chronically ill, disabled or aged family members and friends.1
According to National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), family caregivers are responsible for more than 78% of the nation’s long-term care services2. When translated into a dollar figure, this accounts for more than $375 billion annually in free caregiving services3.
Along with recognition, November is also a month to celebrate the ways caregivers make a difference in the everyday lives of millions of loved ones who depend on them. Please join Partners Against Pain in celebrating the nation’s caregivers and the outstanding role they play in helping those in need live richer and fuller lives.
Every person makes a choice when becoming a caregiver. There are things that can be controlled in the journey ahead, and situations that can’t. The most important choice is deciding how to approach your life from this point forward. Keeping a positive attitude above all else is key to caregiving. Those who embrace a positive outlook end up happier, healthier and more proactive on behalf of loved ones and also themselves.
Knowing Your Capabilities
Nobody knows you better than yourself. Taking charge means knowing your strengths as well as your limitations. This honest assessment of capabilities impacts what we can set out to do ourselves, and what we may need help with. It is especially important when taking on the role of caregiver.
Saying “no” is one of the most difficult things for a caregiver to do. Everyone wants to accommodate a loved one’s wishes. However, setting boundaries according to your strengths and weaknesses is an important step in being a resourceful caregiver. Knowing when to ask for someone’s help can make a world of difference in the quality of care you are able to offer.
The Proactive Plus
Knowing your capabilities is a great start in becoming a confident caregiver, but other steps can be taken to make you feel more in control. Being proactive vs. reactive to situations you may face is an ideal solution to averting a looming crisis and keeping you ahead of the game.
Proactive caregivers always have a better chance of staying on top of situations that inevitably come up. Whether it’s financial, legal or simple everyday challenges that present themselves, taking proactive steps to remedy the issue can make a world of difference. Of course, some people are proactive and others aren’t. If you feel you are not naturally proactive, then do your best to find a relative or friend who is. Together you can take charge of any situation and be the best caregiver you can be – for your loved one and for yourself.
Making Every Minute Count
As a caregiver, you may often feel like you have two, three or even four full-time jobs – caring for your family, your loved one and yourself. It’s really easy to jump on the treadmill and run as fast as you can to keep up with your daily routine. However, it’s important to be disciplined enough to slow down and invest in nourishing yourself as well as your family.
This November, in celebration of National Family Caregiver Month, make the time to care for the caregiver –– YOU!
- Eat well-balanced meals; take a vitamin; drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day for proper hydration.
- Exercise daily; simple stretching, walking or yoga keeps the circulation going.
- Get enough sleep; 7 to 8 hours a night; rest when your loved one naps.
- Step outdoors; fresh air does wonders for the body and spirit.
- Take time for yourself; Relax, meditate, manage stress. Books and videos can help guide you in these techniques.
- Laugh; reminisce and share your stories of happy times.
- Ask for help; When things are overwhelming, turn to friends, family and community groups for assistance.
Although being a caregiver can have its share of trials, when you take time to care for yourself, caring for your loved one can be even more rewarding.
Support: Just A Quick Click Away
To find online support in your area, Partners Against Pain suggests visiting thefamilycaregiver.org. Connecting with other caregivers is a way to give and receive hope, advice and friendly support. A handy online calendar is also available to help you organize doctor appointments, food shopping, and—most importantly—some downtime for yourself. Go to National Family Caregivers Association to plan your week and see all the services available to you.
- Caregiving in the United States. National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009.
- Thompson, L. Long-term care: support for family caregivers. 2004.
- Evercare Survey of the Economic Downturn and Its Impact on Family Caregiving. National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare; March 2009.