Family caregivers deserve to be celebrated and cared for every month, but November is the month they are nationally recognized. It is meant to be a month to honor family caregivers and raise awareness of the many issues that they face in their caregiving responsibilities.
In California alone, there are estimated to be around 4.5 million family caregivers. Many family caregivers do not call themselves caregivers. They may reserve that title for people whose paid job it is to provide care. However, the reality is that family caregivers are often overlooked because of this and are truly the backbone of our country’s long term care system.
Family caregivers are providing the bulk of care to older adults, often at their own expense. If we were to pay these family members for the care they provide, it would cost our country billions of dollars.
These are the spouses, children, relatives, and friends who are helping with shopping, taking older adults to appointments, monitoring their medications, their health, and often providing supervision and personal care as the needs progress. In fact, family caregivers often end up providing medical tasks at home, and can feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped for the difficult responsibilities they must manage.
If you are a family caregiver, make sure you have support. It may be difficult to ask for help but this is the time to reach out. When a well-meaning friend says “what can I do to help” give them an answer. Prepare your thoughts so that you always have an answer on how people can help you. Think about the tasks you do and let them take something off your plate.
Consider asking the friend to stay with your loved one while you go out or asking them to take an errand off your hands. Maybe what you really want is for them to bring you a coffee and a listening ear. Whatever you decide, let that person support you. It will benefit them as well because they want to feel they are being a good friend.
Providing care to a loved one can be emotional, exhausting, and often changes the nature of the relationship you have with your loved one. There is always a risk of burnout for family caregivers which can lead to other physical health problems. For this reason, finding help, support and education for caregivers is so vital.
The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging lists Caregiver Resource Centers in the area that can help. You can find more information by calling 805-477-7300 or at this website https://www.vcaaa.org/our-services/caregiver-services/ There are also national organizations such as the Caregiver Action Network https://www.caregiveraction.org/ or The Family Caregiver Alliance https://www.caregiver.org/
As a community we must support those who are caring our older adults. If you know someone who is caring for a loved one take the time to thank them for the love and generosity they provide. Do an act of kindness to tell them that you appreciate the role they are providing. A simple thank you can go a long way to helping someone feel recognized.
Sometimes that is all that is needed to keep going.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org