To honor those that fulfill this challenging role, November is declared National Family Caregivers Month. This year’s theme being “Respite”, its intention is to raise awareness of caregiver’s selfless efforts and generate resources that support their mental and physical health as well.
Helpful Resources. Many caregivers lack access to helpful services or any form of assistance, making stressful situations even more overwhelming. Of course, this can be detrimental to their physical, emotional, social and financial well-being. National Caregivers Month could have a positive impact on the lives of over 40 million American caregivers who struggle to provide adequate support for elderly or disabled patients in difficult situations, while over 15 million do so without any monetary compensation. Over the past 11 years, The CareGiver Partnership has created the most extensive library of helpful caregiver resources anywhere on the internet - over 1500. Each has been fully vetted and organized making it easy to find what you might need.
Another helpful resource is The CareGiver Partnership blog which contains nearly 2,000 articles on every aspect of caregiving and has been read over a million times. There is no advertising so its unbiased and uncluttered.
Paid Family Leave. Expanding paid family leave to all Americans so that caregivers need not sacrifice their job to help loved ones, and for military members would be helpful. Memebers of the military have caregiver leave for up to five years after service termination. Since these caregivers are essentially taking the tax burden away from the everyday American, it is imperative that they receive adequate support to make their difficult lives easier, even if that comes at the expense of businesses or corporations that often do little to help the problem.
Additional support for caregivers can be as simple as proper thanks and recognition from friends, family, or other caregivers, which National Caregivers Month aims to do. Many patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia may not be able to even thank their caregivers, so this first step is crucial for raising support. Connecting with other caregivers can also help ease their burden, whether this be in an online forum or at a local support group, and this can decrease feelings of loneliness, futility, anxiety, or depression by hearing from other people in similar situations.
Tools to Help Caregivers. Without the direct support of a friend or neighbor, the utility of home technology can also provide a momentary reprieve. Electronic pillboxes can detect if the patient has taken their medication correctly each day and can notify caregivers from their home. Some monitor systems can immediately alert professional medical authorities if there is a problem, which can alleviate caregivers’ fears of not being around all the time, while other security systems can help monitor a patient with varying degrees of scrutiny based on the specific circumstance, which can also increase independence for the patient while allaying the worries of caregivers.
“Respite” is considered a luxury by most, but everyone needs a break sometimes -- especially those in charge of providing comprehensive care to patients at home. They need time to rest, relax, recharge, reenergize, and rejuvenate, just like anyone else, in order to do their job as attentively and effectively as they can. Taking a night off to go out to eat, get a massage, or see a movie is necessary, as long-term stressful situations have been proven to wear down both the body and mind over time.
Recognizing the efforts of all caregivers is important, and raising awareness for their situation is the first step toward improving things for everyone. As a country we must rise to the challenge of helping those who care for others, so that they never have to miss a paycheck or put their own physical and emotional health in jeopardy.
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