The month of November has been designated National Family Caregivers Month, and it’s dedicated to the millions of people who are providing care for older adults (and others of all ages who require assistance.)
National Family Caregivers Month – What is it?
National Family Caregivers Month was officially enacted under Proclamation 8078 by former President George W. Bush, on October 30, 2006 for the purpose of recognizing, “… millions of compassionate citizens who bring love and support to family members and friends who are chronically ill, elderly or disabled…(giving) of their hearts, resources, and energy to assist loved ones in need.”
The calendar is full of “appreciation days” for people who work in various capacities, including bosses, secretaries, teachers and other specialties. Caregivers certainly deserve this time of appreciation – an entire month in their case – to recognize the hard work that they do, which is all too often overlooked.
The purpose of the month-long celebration of caregivers includes both sentimental and practical reasons:
- To raise awareness of family caregiver issues
- To celebrate the efforts of family caregivers
- To educate family caregivers about self-identification
- To increase support for family caregivers
Why Caregivers Deserve to be Recognized for Their Work
Caring for a family member is often an under-appreciated effort. Many family caregivers use time away from work and other activities to take care of their loved one, out of sight and out of pocket. It is a largely unpaid endeavor, that comes with varying levels of gratitude. The general public is not focused on or in-touch with the day-to-day challenges that many caregivers face.
Though many family caregivers may find what they do rewarding, and may be naturally talented at it, an equal share could find such work burdensome. Unsurprisingly, many caregivers find that they must make trade-offs between care of a loved one, and care of themselves. After all, if the caregiver doesn’t care for themselves, they will eventually be unable to care for another person.
Caregiving is a Necessary and Growing Function
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 1.4 million Americans currently living in 15,600 care facilities across the country. That doesn’t include the millions more who are being cared for at home by family and friends.
As the population ages and longevity increases, the need for caregiving has increased steadily as well.
What You Can Do During National Family Caregivers Month
November is the month when you should be purposeful about showing your appreciation for someone who is a caregiver. At a minimum, saying “thank you” or kindly acknowledging the work that they do is always thoughtful. A token of appreciation, or small gift could be appropriate in some instances. Of course, offering assistance or support in their caregiving effort could also be quite meaningful. Here are several ideas about how this can be accomplished:
- Offer to give the caregiver a day off, by taking his or her place for a day
- Offer to back up the caregiver, by making yourself available for sick days, days off, weekends or even a vacation
- Offer to step in on a regular basis, even if just for a few hours. For example, offer to take care of the person on Wednesday nights, or Saturday mornings, or any time-slot you have available
- Offer to assist the caregiver with certain activities, such as housekeeping or shopping
- Offer some form of remuneration directly to the caregiver, as it is often an unpaid effort
- Offer to pay for certain expenses connected with caregiving, that the caregiver may be paying out of his or her own pocket
Though it is sometimes overlooked, caregiving is one of the toughest jobs there is! Take advantage of the opportunity to show your appreciation to any caregivers that you know this November.