Did you know that November is both National Family Caregivers Month as well as Home Care and Hospice Month? How will you honor the caregivers in your life? With 40 percent of adults in the U.S. currently caring for a loved one with a health issue and this number poised to only grow with the coming of retirement age of the baby boom generation, the importance of caregivers in society cannot be overstated. And yet their own needs often go unmet. Let's take a closer look at the invaluable role played by caregivers, along with some simple ways to show your appreciation for the caregivers in your life.
A simple "thank you" goes a long way.
The Facts on Family Caregivers
According to Caregiving in the U.S., a joint report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, roughly 44 million people representing 22.9 million households provide care for another adult.
While the profile of the "typical caregiver," is an educated 46-year-old woman, the fact remains that caregiving is an equal opportunity enterprise with men and women of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds taking on the role. In most cases, they're also working full or part-time while caring for other family members, as well.
Unfortunately, many caregivers report that assuming responsibility for the wellbeing of another person takes a physical, emotional, and financial toll on their lives. In fact, the report concludes that of all types of caregivers, family caregivers are most likely to suffer detrimental consequences due to their efforts. The most common struggles faced by caregivers, according to Caregiving in the U.S., include finding time for themselves, managing stress, and juggling work-life responsibilities.
What Can You Do?
Do you know a caregiver? Perhaps a family member or a neighbor? If so, November offers the perfect opportunity to reach out and help lighten her load. Even a small seemingly simple act can yield meaningful rewards when it comes to letting someone know she's not alone. Read on for three ways to make a difference in the life of a caregiver.
1. Say "Thank You"
While a few heartfelt words of gratitude may seem insignificant, they go a long way in helping to validate the efforts of someone who is devoting her life to the care and wellbeing of another -- particularly in cases where the people receiving the care cannot express their gratitude. Whether you're a fellow caregiver or simply a friend or an acquaintance, expressing your appreciation can brighten the day of a caregiver who is feeling overburdened, isolated or alone. Flowers and cards are also easy ways to acknowledge a caregiver. Or even consider nominating them for the 6th Annual Elizabeth McGown Caregiver Legacy Award. What a great way to let them know how important they are to you and what an outstanding job they are doing in making a difference in the lives of older adults. All nominees will be notified.
2. Step In
With "me time" topping the list of precious commodities for caregivers, an offer to step in for a morning or afternoon can be a true blessing for someone in need of a break. A few hours out of your day may provide critical respite for a caregiver to take a walk, visit with friends or family members, catch up on their own bills or housework, or just take an uninterrupted nap.
3. Support "Me Time"
Many caregivers have a mile-long list of things to do. One way to ensure that a caregiver will use time off for themselves? Give her a gift certificate to a local restaurant or spa. A quiet meal in a restaurant, massage, or manicure can help her relax and recharge in order to continue to offer the very best care while sustaining her own wellbeing.
Professional Caregivers Make a Difference, Too!
But November is not just for thanking family caregivers. Health care workers in hospice and home health care fields are also an essential part of caring for seniors, and these jobs are often high in stress and low in appreciation. If you know someone who works in one of these fields, November is an ideal time to express your gratitude.
While this time of year calls us to count our blessings, it also reminds us to thank the caregivers who might otherwise go unnoticed. But also keep in mind that every day is an opportunity to say thank you to the people who give their time, effort and resources to help seniors and others in need. Mmlearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmlearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. Access our free online caregiver videos to get started today.