Along with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month (link to blog post), November is also National Family Caregivers Month. Back in 1994, the Caregiver Action Network (formerly the National Family Caregivers Association) promoted the week of Thanksgiving as a time to celebrate family caregivers. As interest in family caregiving issues grew, the week turned into a full month to recognize and honor family caregivers.
There are over 66 million family caregivers in the United States. Many times, the responsibility becomes a full time job, with 1 in 5 caregivers spending over 40 hours per week assisting a loved one. While the value of these services that family caregivers provide is said to be “free”, because family caregivers are unpaid, it is estimated to actually be valued at around $375 billion per year. A study done by the Alzheimer’s Association regarding caregiving stated that in 2013 alone, unpaid family caregivers provided around 18 billion hours of care to aging loved ones.
Taking care of aging loved ones can have a dramatic impact on the caregivers’ lives. Many caregivers have difficulty finding time for themselves as well as managing the physical and emotional stress caregiving can cause. They also have a hard time balancing work responsibilities with caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers often put their family’s needs before their own, causing their own health to suffer. They often feel like they just don’t have the time to take care of themselves, or are often too tired to do so.
National Family Caregivers Month was created as a way to recognize the invaluable contributions caregivers make to their families. In 2012, President Obama gave an official proclamation, stating that “National Family Caregivers Month is a time to reflect on the compassion and dedication that family caregivers embody every day.” He encouraged all Americans to pay tribute to the caregivers who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, or even neighbors.
Here are just a few ways to celebrate National Family Caregivers Month:
- Host a get together to honor the caregivers you know- since it’s the month of Thanksgiving, you can even offer to prepare the dinner and host it, so the caregiver can sit back and relax that day.
- Send a card or write a letter expressing your appreciation for all that they do. Sending flowers is also a lovely idea, too!
- Get your community involved- ask local businesses to offer a free service to family caregivers during the month. Or, organize an event to honor caregivers in a local community center.
- Support the caregiver by offering them a few hours of respite time. Respite is so important for caregivers to get some time to themselves to run errands and get chores done, or even just so they can relax by taking a nap or watching a favorite television show with no interruptions.
Make sure you utilize this month to recognize the family caregivers you know. Caregivers need as much support as they can get, and the simplest gesture can go a long way.
American Senior Communities provides respite care. For more information about American Senior Communities, please visit www.ascseniorcare.com.