Here’s what I’d like to see:
- A big parade featuring caregivers on 5thAvenue in New York;
- A huge rally in support of pro-caregiver legislation on the National Mall in Washington DC;
- Restaurants across the country offering discounts to family caregivers;
- Members of the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL wearing colored equipment that draws attention to caregivers (What color would that be?).
While none of this is likely to happen, I do think that having a month to draw attention to family caregivers is a good thing. It brings the facts about caregiving closer to the forefront of issues to be considered in 21st century America. There have been gains made in the past decade in terms of government support for family caregivers through creation of national programs such as the Area Agencies on Aging and the Offices of Senior Resources and Councils on Aging.
Still, there’s a lot more that can and should be done to support family caregivers, but in the wake of the vitriolic debate over healthcare reform, I doubt that policy makers from either party are much interested in wading into similar waters to craft a spending plan to support caregivers. So that leaves us doing what we do without “official” support other than in the form of having a whole month that honors and celebrates our unpaid work on behalf of family and friends.
A good way to use this month is to consider the way in which you go about your caregiving and find new ways to make it less stressful:
- Learn to ask for and accept help;
- Find ways to care for yourself in order to stay strong to care for your loved one;
- Shift your thinking into new patterns of doing family celebrations that make room for the reality of your caregiving.
- Pat yourself on the back—or take yourself out to lunch, a movie, some kind of treat—as a way of saying ‘thanks.’ You deserve it.