National Family Caregivers Month—What It is and How to Honor

The role of family caregivers has arguably never been more important to recognize. Since 1997, the President of the United States has issued an annual proclamation in November to honor family caregivers.

This proclamation states, in part, “Each day in homes throughout our Nation, Americans with chronic or terminal illnesses, functional impairment, or disabilities receive compassionate care and support from family members and loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we salute the more than 40 million people in the United States who serve as unpaid caregivers. With generous hearts and faithful devotion, they honor the sanctity of life and affirm the inherent value of all human beings.”

In addition it notes that, “Caregivers work long days and spend countless hours to meet and anticipate the needs of their loved ones, often facing challenges that can seem impossible to navigate. Errands, medical appointments, transportation, meal preparation, grooming, and companionship can consume significant time and effort, especially when caregivers must balance these duties with the pressures and responsibilities of their own lives, including employment and raising children. In spite of all of this, these extraordinary moms and dads, sons and daughters, siblings, and friends showcase compassion and selflessness for the ones they love.”

Giving Thanks to Family Caregivers

With the annual Thanksgiving holiday in November, this is a natural time to remember to show gratitude to the family caregivers in your life. Here are some ideas:

  1. Send a card to let them know that you see how much they are doing. So often the volunteer efforts of these family caregivers are not talked about.
  2. Offer to take their place. If the person being cared for is a shared family member who you know well, ask if you can give them a break by filling their shoes for a few hours or even a few days.
  3. If you live too far away or are just not available, offer to hire a professional caregiver for respite care so the family caregiver can care for themselves.
  4. Hire another service, such as a cleaning company, to come in and brighten their day with one less task for them to do.
  5. Give them a small gift of flowers, a gift certificate, or something else that is about them and their interests to put a smile on their face.

Numerous surveys have found that family caregivers experience more stress than non-family caregivers and they can burnout when they don’t get the rest they need. In recognizing the role of a family caregiver, be sure to check in on them and their well-being, not just that of the person for whom they care.

Learn more about the health impacts of family caregiving in this blog.

Honor Yourself Too

If you are a family caregiver, be sure to honor all that you do, not just this month but all year. Here are some suggestions for self-care:

  1. Take a nap. Research shows that naps can boost memory, improve mood, ease stress, and of course, make you feel more rested.
  2. Stay connected. It’s all too easy to disappear into caregiving, but maintaining social connections is good for your mental health.
  3. Get support. There are support groups in person and online for all kinds of caregiving scenarios—for people who care for others who are living with dementia, for people who care for spouses, and many more—that can provide a safe place to share woes and get tips.

Although there is just one month set aside to recognize the important contributions of family caregivers, maintain these practices for improved well-being each month of the year.

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