National Family Caregivers Month is November and please know that your selfless dedication, compassion and commitment to providing care and attention to your aging parents or other loved one is appreciated by all. Thank you!
What is National Family Caregivers Month?
National Family Caregivers Month is, as the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) puts it, “a time to thank, support, educate, and empower family caregivers.”
Clearly, a month is hardly enough time to adequately thank all home caregivers for all that they do; a year, or even a decade would not be enough! However, this month is still a symbolic acknowledgement of all that family caregivers do.
In his declaration for the 2012 National Family Caregivers Month, President Obama stated that “family caregivers have an immeasurable impact on the lives of those they assist, but their hours are long and their work is hard. Many put their own lives on hold to lift up someone close to them…we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.”
When did it start?
National Family Caregivers Month started in 1994 as National Family Caregivers Week, and was officially established by presidential proclamation in 1997. Over time, it grew into a month-long celebration. National Family Caregivers month aims to accomplish the following:
- raise awareness of family caregiver issues
- celebrate the efforts of family caregivers
- educate family caregivers about self-identification
What exactly is self-identification? Simply put, it’s acknowledging oneself as a family caregiver. According to surveys conducted by NFCA, family caregivers who identify themselves as such “become more proactive about seeking resources and skills they need to assist their care recipients” and exhibit “increased confidence when talking to healthcare professionals about their loved one’s care.” It’s not clear what is the cause and what is the effect – does a person’s self-identification lead to these advanced skills, or does one acquire advanced skills during the journey toward self-identification? – but it’s something to think about.
There are a LOT of home caregivers
If you are a caregiver, you’re far from alone: 29% of the U.S. population (about 65 million people) are home caregivers, and devote an average of 20 hours a week to providing that care. All that work and care is worth the equivalent of $375 billion per year.
If you are reading this, there’s a very strong chance that you are a family caregiver. If you are not, here are a few ways that you can show your appreciation to a family caregiver (and if you are a family caregiver, you might want to leave this list in a conspicuous place for others to find, and perhaps add an idea or two of your own).
- Offer to sit with the care recipient for an hour or two so that the regular caregiver has time to do necessary things.
- Pick up groceries or prescriptions for the caregiver.
- Offer to decorate the caregiver’s home for the holidays or address holiday cards in December.
- Arrange to come in and clean the caregiver’s house, or if your time is limited, offer to vacuum, wash the windows, or do some other cleaning chore.
- Send a heartfelt “thank you” card, flowers, or other appropriate gift.
- Ask what you can do to help.
Home caregivers make a huge difference in the lives of so many people, not just in the lives of the loved ones they care for, but in the lives of others as well. National Family Caregivers Month is a chance to say “thank you” – something that everyone should be doing all year long anyway!