November is National Caregiver Month, which is “a time to acknowledge the important role that family, friends and neighbors play in caring for sick, elderly and disabled friends and relations” according to the Administration on Aging (AOA). It’s also a time to highlight some of the resources available to caregivers.
Work/Life Balance and Caregiving
Caregivers do a variety of things, from making sure parents have a full pantry to managing their day-to-day prescriptions and monitoring their general health. They help care for many areas of an aging parent’s life, including finances, housing, and emotional well being.
According to the AOA, “Family caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of uncompensated care to loved ones annually.” This is often done in addition to working full-time jobs and caring for their own children.
The demands of caregiving often blur the lines of the traditional work/life balance, with caregivers spending a considerable portion of time making sure that aging family members are thriving and healthy. That’s one reason November’s month-long focus on caregiving is a positive one. It reminds family members to support the caregiver in any way they can, even if they live far away.
Family members can do this by
- Providing breaks for a day or week, allowing the caregiver to take time for themselves
- Giving the caregiver a safe place to vent frustrations and share the joys of caregiving
- Offering a sympathetic ear
- Buying groceries, clothes, or toiletries for the aging parent
Resources for Caregivers
Many caregivers take on the role with little or no training, and as a result can feel isolated and alone. But resources are available, from hot lunch delivery to nurse visitation. Making sure caregivers are aware of their resource options is the goal of the (NFCSP). The program offers varying levels of support for people caring for parents over 70 years of age.
The National Alliance for Caregiving also offers a variety of resources, including lists of health care facilities, a hospice locator, community programs for vets, and other assisted living information. A complete list of links is available at their website.
Lifting up the Caregivers
Another goal of National Caregiver Month is to provide family and friends of caregivers ideas on how they can offer help. The AOA recommends emotional support such as sending e-cards, recognizing caregivers in the community in some way, or just contacting a caregiver to see what you can do.
Even those who don’t know a caregiver personally can help by raising awareness. Posting a note on Facebook about National Caregiver Month, tweeting a shout out to all the caregivers providing support to their families, or asking political representatives to enact policies to help caregivers are all tasks that anyone can do.
Caregivers “provide more long-term care in our country than any other group, by far,” according to USA.gov. It’s up to everyone in the family to make sure the primary caregiver is properly supported.