National Family Caregivers Month was created to recognize and honor the contributions of family caregivers from children to seniors. The theme for 2022 is Caregiving Around the Clock – something family caregivers definitely relate to! This year, family caregivers also have something to celebrate – a national strategy was recently announced to support them.
According to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, “Supporting family caregivers is an urgent public health issue, exacerbated by the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This national strategy recognizes the critical role family caregivers play in a loved one’s life. I know the importance of this first-hand, as someone who cared for my late father and navigated the challenges associated with caregiving.”
In the United States alone there are currently more than 60 million family caregivers who provide valuable care to those in need. Caregivers range in age from early teens to seniors and provide any necessary care for their senior loved ones.
All family caregivers can use some focus on their care! The spotlight of this month gives a great reason to reach out intentionally and help them do just that.
Caregivers face a wide variety of challenges navigating all the responsibilities of their lives – including caregiving. It can be so easy for caregivers to continue to eliminate things they do to care for themselves in order to make more time. What’s the first thing usually shaved off? Self-care – something frequently and mistakenly considered optional!
Sue Ryan, a family caregiver for forty years learned this lesson through personal experience, “It was easy for me to ‘shave pieces of myself away’ to care for my loved ones; I was giving care from a place of love. It was modeled to me multiple times that, with our spouse, this is part of our ‘for better or for worse’ agreement. For many years, I also believed I should handle it all. As my care receiver’s needs continued to increase, I looked at where I could find the capacity to take on more and ‘shave off’ something from my own activities. I did this again and again, and I kept on doing it. I thought this was what I was supposed to do. There finally came a time when I didn’t have any more to ‘shave off.’”
This month, as the light shines on family caregivers, those who know them can reach out, check in with them, and explore ways to support them.
Here are several suggestions to support them:
- Look at your calendar and find blocks of available time. Based on the types of support you have the capacity to provide, make suggestions like:
“I’ve got two hours available on Thursday afternoon. May I sit with [care receiver] so you can have some time for yourself?
“I’m going to be running errands Friday. Let’s make a list of things you can use, and I’ll pick them up for you.”
- Depending on how well you know them, buy them a gift certificate for some form of self-care they like and include with it the care of their care receiver. Work with them to get it scheduled – they may feel like they can’t do something for themselves when their care receiver requires care.
- When talking with them, ask first how they are, wording your questions so they can’t provide a yes or no answer. Know that sometimes they may be hesitant to open up and yet that’s incredibly important for their self-care. Gently keep asking questions that put the focus on them in a way that shows how much they matter to you, so they feel it’s ok to share with you how they’re feeling and how they’re managing what’s going on in their lives.
- If you are a family caregiver, be receptive to receiving support. It can be difficult at first, especially if you’ve gotten used to doing everything yourself. There are times in people’s lives when they have the capacity to provide support and times in their lives when they benefit from others providing support.
- More than 60% of caregivers neglect their health while caregiving. Ask the family caregiver when they had their last physical, eye exam, ear exam, dentist, and any specialists. Work with them to get the appointments scheduled and find support team members who can be with their care receivers while they get their own care.
- Family caregivers continuously face new experiences and challenges. They seek answers, often without knowing the questions to ask – or whom to ask. Sometimes it becomes so overwhelming they put off looking for answers. Helping them know they’re not alone and that there are people who can help them with both the questions to ask – and answers that help them – is especially reassuring. Connecting them with experts who know their journey is tremendously helpful.
A wonderful benefit of supporting caregivers is when they get rest, feel supported, and learn solutions that help them feel confident, they have the capacity to enjoy the beautiful moments in their journey – with their care receiver and with others – while feeling good about themselves.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter says “There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.
Family caregiver month is a good time to help family caregivers evaluate areas they haven’t yet evaluated – or they’ve put off because they didn’t know what to do. As we raise the awareness of family caregivers this month, let’s support those who are currently caregivers, and check in with those who have been caregivers. Oasis Senior Advisors is here to support you and the loved one you care for. Through our guiding principle of “Using our extensive knowledge, skills, and resources to enhance the lives of seniors and their families.”, we provide complimentary and in-person assessments. Connect with your local advisor today at www.oasissenioradvisors.com/contact-us.