November is National Family Caregivers Month. This month is a time when caregivers are recognized for the tireless work they do. It’s dedicated to raising awareness and providing support for family caregivers. We can celebrate their contributions and work to find better ways to support them as they care for others. Caregivers provide direct care for older adults, children or those with chronic illnesses. They live each day juggling caregiving responsibilities along with other duties. Doing this day in and day out can lead to burnout.
With caregiving, there have been reports of diminished family relationships that suffer because of the caregiver’s obligations. Nearly 70% of caregivers don’t see their doctors on a regular basis because of their responsibilities. Most caregivers work part-time or full-time jobs outside the home in addition to caregiving. There are over 40 million Americans who are unpaid caregivers for their family or neighborhood friends. They use their own money and resources to care for others and most eventually need to cut back on work hours, take a leave of absence or quit their jobs entirely for caregiving which poses a major financial drain.
While this is just one month to recognize caregivers, they can use help on a regular basis. As a caregiver, I know it is greatly appreciated when someone can help with grocery shopping, clean up around the house or be a companion for the person receiving care. It can be hard for people to ask for help, and in fact about half, or more of caregivers do not get any outside help at all. It can be helpful to make a meal, provide transportation, help with laundry or pick up a prescription. Spending time with the person being cared for can give the caregiver time for a nap to restore, relax, and rejuvenate to come back stronger to take care of their responsibilities.
Because the work can be exhausting, this is a great time to honor the caregiver by providing respite care. Many barely have time for themselves, so if there’s an opportunity to come in and give them a few hours or even days away from their responsibilities, that can help tremendously. Caregivers live a life of being on call with very little time in the day to rest and recharge before doing the same thing the next day.
Giving someone respite care can help them to connect with others that they rarely see, live their lives outside of being responsible for someone 24/7, give them time to read a book, meditate or watch the sunset. These are things that many people take for granted and may not think about when taking care of someone on a full-time basis. It can give them time to take a few days away to do self-care like going to the doctor or dentist or other types of appointments. Respite helps to prevent caregiver burnout. So, honor the caregivers in your life by giving of yourself for a few hours or days to help them care for themselves.