Each November since 1997, National Family Caregivers Month is celebrated as a way to recognize and honor family caregivers across the country. Every year, the Caregiver Action Network chooses the theme and organizes the celebrations, providing materials like posters, sample proclamations, media kits and more. The goal of National Family Caregivers Month is to raise awareness of issues family caregivers face daily, commend their efforts, and provide education and support for them.
This year, National Family Caregivers Month reminds us that the first rule of taking care of others means taking good care of oneself. While providing care for an aging loved one can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, family caregivers often find their duties leave them little time to tend to their own well-being. This means their physical, mental and emotional health can suffer, leading to caregiver stress syndrome and a variety of conditions that affect their overall quality of life.
“Take Care to Give Care” – The Importance of Respite Care
The theme of 2016 National Family Caregivers Month is “Take Care to Give Care.” Family caregivers are encouraged to put themselves first from time to time and pay attention to their own physical and mental wellness, get proper nutrition and enough sleep. If a family caregiver isn’t as healthy as he or she can be, it won’t be possible to provide the best care to an aging loved one. Then, everyone’s health can become compromised.
It’s true that family caregivers often put themselves last. Some of the daily challenges they face include assisting loved ones with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing and eating, as well as mobility. Lifting and moving a loved one around the home can be a demanding task alone. Plus, family caregivers often must administer medications, or sometimes even intravenous injections- activities they may have no formal training to complete. Studies show that one out of five caregivers report they have sacrificed their own health while caring for a loved one.
National Family Caregivers Month reminds caregivers that they must remain strong and healthy, and take care to give care. A few of the ways family caregivers can focus on themselves include:
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Family caregivers are encouraged to eat a healthy diet and get the proper amount of exercise. Proper nutrition helps maintain strength, stamina and energy levels and can also keep immune systems strong.
Join a caregiver support group. Locate a caregiver support group in your area to connect with others who are facing the same challenges and issues. Caregiver support groups provide a chance to share common experiences, learn coping strategies, form special friendships and even offer the possibility of helping others.
Seek respite care services. Respite care services can often be thought of as a luxury, but when family caregivers add up the expenses of the health issues they may face due to caregiver stress syndrome, not utilizing these services can be even costlier. Respite services allow caregivers a chance to recharge and attend to their own needs, which is vital to be the best caregiver possible.
Consider an assisted living community. While family caregivers often consider moving their loved one to an assisted living community as a last resort, assisted living can improve their loved one’s quality of life! Many caregivers are faced with feelings of guilt, but it’s important to remember that the decision to move a loved one to an assisted living community was made because he or she needs full-time care in a safe, comfortable environment.