November is National Family Caregivers Month
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.
Find Humor in National Family Caregivers Month
November is National Family Caregivers Month, and this caregiving stuff is hard work! And it’s usually not funny… Until Jeff Foxworthy and caregiver Peter Rosenberger teamed up with AARP to provide some comic relief on the subject.
Across the country 42 million people, primarily women, between the ages 40 – 60 are faced with the challenge of providing care to their older family members and friends each and every day.
These are the unsung heros of today. These caregivers support the people we all love. Caregivers take on a variety of roles as providing this care can come in all forms. From taking mom to the doctor’s office, to managing medications, to total care of a loved one. New research from AARP suggests that caregiver’s personal health and overall well-being can be greatly affected by the physical and emotional strain of caregiving, but many caregivers are reluctant to ask for help. The Ad Council has released a series of new Public Service Advertisements (PSAs) that explore the many roles caregivers take on and provide resources to help them cope with their daily responsibilities.
Here are some resources to share to help recognize caregivers everywhere for the important work they do:
- The new website, ThanksProject.org, where you can share a message of thanks with a caregiver you know and post it publicly alongside other messages from people across the country to illustrate the number of caregivers nationwide.
- A new online quiz to help identify if you are a caregiver: click here for online quiz
- If you or a caregiver you know needs support, a caregiver support group is imperative for the health and wellbeing of the caregiver.
If you are a caregiver, or you know someone who is, please be a part of this important campaign. Visit aarp.org/caregiving for more tools and resources. And hug a caregiver today.
National Family Caregiver Month Honors Those Who Receive Very Little Recognition
Since caregiving can be one of the most difficult jobs for anyone with around-the-clock care, little rest, possible stressful emotional situations and oftentimes inadequate compensation, President Obama declared November as National Family Caregiver Month in 2013. Since its inception, the mission of National Caregiver Month has been to raise awareness for caregivers and to improve their overall life and well-being.
Even the most loving and patient caregivers will become tired and need to recharge in order to avoid emotional or psychological burnout as a result of stress and overwork. However, one of the most wonderful things about advancing technology is the way in which it can make so many lives easier. This is no exception for caregivers – emerging technology can make a world of difference for caregivers in profound ways.
One key component for aid is the Internet, which well over half of all caregivers use for not only obtaining healthcare information and learning more about a diagnosis but also for social activities such as sharing personal stories or seeing what other people have gone through. As technology advances even further, the internet will be crucial in connecting caregivers with doctors, tech specialists, and other caregivers. Although it will not be enough, it will work in conjunction with other advancements to reduce caregiver stress and strain.
Other useful tools for caregivers are Personal Emergency Response Systems which can automatically alert a call center operator in the event of an emergency. This can greatly reduce stress on a caregiver who may worry that something could happen to a loved one while they are away. Medication reminders such as MedMinder and TabSafe can also reduce strain on a caregiver by allowing them to track if their attendee has taken a specific medication. There are also smartphone apps that serve similar functions for a fraction of the cost, as well as electronic pillboxes. A GPS system or radio tracker, which can work with a smartphone or on a separate device, can make it easier to locate a dementia-suffering senior, or it can simply send alerts to a caregiver if their patient leaves a certain area. All of these can increase senior autonomy while simultaneously lifting some of the burden from caregivers.
Although slightly more cumbersome, wireless home automation systems can also greatly ease a caregiver’s burden. This requires installing a security system with cameras, sensors, and monitors, all of which can track a patient’s actions and alert a caregiver if they have fallen or if something unusual has happened. These kinds of systems can vary in their invasiveness to fit the necessary situation. Some caregivers may be comfortable with a few short daily Skype calls from a webcam, while others in extreme cases may require constant surveillance. This can still give seniors a large amount of control and independence by allowing them to personally send notifications if there is an invasion or control the settings without getting up.
National Caregiver Month aims to raise awareness and ease caregivers’ burdens, and advancing technology is just one way to improve the lives of both caregivers and their loved ones because there is a useful tool for almost every unique caregiving situation. Some tools are simple apps that can be downloaded onto a smartphone while other tools transform an entire house into a security network to help protect seniors or others from danger. Easing the burden for caregivers will improve the overall quality of care while allowing them much-needed respite from what normally requires full attention.