As the primary caregiver for my parent, I am very familiar with the time spent pouring into the life of someone who means so much to me. In fact, I am writing this article as I sit with my mother in her hospital room. It is so important to aid in the healing of family members and friends who are living with conditions or injuries that affect their lives. It is also important to be mindful of those individuals who are caring for them. That’s why in the United States, November is recognized as National Family Caregivers Month.
For many caregivers careers, relationships, and even the caregiver’s own health may take a backseat to doctor’s appointments, medication management, and daily care. The caregiver may have to undergo training for special medical equipment and treatment and may also be responsible for managing finances or bills of the person needing care. Free time that may have been taken for granted, is now spent speaking up and advocating for a family member or friend who cannot always do so themselves. Couple that with the sadness, stress, and anxiety that the loved one and their caregiver may face. This is the experience of millions of caregivers across the world.
There are 60 million caregivers in the U.S. and that number is growing. 1.5 million caregivers are between the ages of eight and 18, whereas 2.7 million caregivers are grandparents caring for children under the age of 18. One-third of caregivers are millennials, between the ages of 18 and 29.
Some of the big issues that caregivers face include a decrease in their own health, high emotional stress, and the need for work accommodations. A large number of caregivers report that they don’t get asked by a doctor about their needs and a whopping 85% of caregivers report that they do not get a break.
Organizations like Mental Health America are encouraging caregivers to care for themselves as well. Some suggestions for being an effective caregiver are: educate yourself, encourage treatment, give freedom to the person for whom you’re caring, be a friend, and take care of yourself. We all know that you can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not taking good care of yourself. The three most helpful things that were reported to help caregivers along their journey are prayer, talking, and reading–in that order.
This Family Caregivers Month, it is never too late to say “I support you” and to show support to someone caring for someone else they love.