On November 1, 2012, President Barack Obama signed a Proclamation, which reads in part, “During National Family Caregivers Month we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and our communities strong.”
A family caregiver may be a parent, spouse, adult child or friend who is responsible for the daily needs of another person. They balance the needs of a loved one while trying to take care of the rest of their family and themselves, plus work, volunteer, or go to school. Becoming a family caregiver can happen suddenly. A severely handicapped child is born, a spouse has a stroke, a diagnosis is given, or parents can no longer take care of themselves. Unplanned, it is a stressful occasion.
Caregiving consists of two parts. One part is the medically related situations that require immediate attention. The other part is the issues that arise daily and do not have an end. These are the day-to-day assistance needed by someone: monitoring medications, stocking groceries, and paying the other person’s bills. All this is being done in addition to everything else the caregivers are already doing in their own life.
You know family caregivers even if you don’t realize it. They don’t advertise their situation, it’s just part of their lives. You stand in line next to them in the store, sit by them at the high school football game or next to them in church. They are your neighbors, coworkers and friends. Don’t shy away from them. Being a family caregiver is not contagious, and neither is the life situation that has made them a caregiver.
If you know a person who is a family caretaker, lend them a hand by offering to help with specific tasks. Let them know you are able to help by picking up the groceries for their housebound parent, supplying a monthly dinner to the caregiver’s family, being available to help in an emergency (remember, these caregivers are often juggling numerous family duties) or sometimes more importantly, lending an ear or shoulder to cry on when needed. A friendly phone call, e-mail, or greeting card can make a difference in a caregiver’s day.
It’s easy to tell a caregiver to take care of himself or herself, but it is hard for a caregiver to do. Assist them by taking them out for a cup of coffee, or stopping by their house with a cup of hot cocoa on a scheduled visit. Treat a caregiver the same way you would like to be treated – with kindness and respect, and a little TLC.
As stated in the White House Proclamation, “National Family Caregivers Month is a tune to reflect on the compassion and dedication that family caregivers embody every day. As we offer our appreciation and admiration for their difficult work, let us also extend our own offers of support to them and their loved ones.”
Submitted by: Gincy Heins