Yesterday, October 31, 2013, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring November 2013 National Family Caregivers Month. In a press release issued by the White House, the President cites the 60 million caregivers who are serving as the primary caregiver for an aging loved one, a person with disabilities or illness in the U.S.
November 2013 declared National Family Caregivers Month
"During National Family Caregivers Month, we thank these tireless heroes for the long, challenging work they perform behind closed doors and without fanfare every day, and we recommit to ensuring the well-being of their loved ones and of the caregivers themselves," the release states. The President goes on to mention the sandwich generation, or the millions of family caregivers who are juggling care for themselves, children and an aging loved one at the same time.
He points to the Affordable Care Act and a new Medicare Pilot program that aims to help ease the transition between hospital and home, as well as new Medicaid options allowing states to expand programs providing access to home and community-based services. Finally, the President discusses the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which is designed to aid post-9/11 Veterans with training, counseling, supportive services and living stipends -- and provides healthcare for family caregivers of injured Veterans.
Are new programs adequately meeting caregivers' needs?
But is all of this enough? Despite new government initiatives and attempts to provide better access to care and support resources, why are there still so many caregivers seemingly struggling to maintain balance and sanity in their roles and constantly suffering from guilt over feelings that they're not adequately meeting their loved ones needs or even, at times, resentful that they have so much on their plates? There are still thousands of caregivers who give 150 percent of their love, devotion and energy who feel like they're failing. And these same caregivers still haven't learned to accept the idea that it's normal -- and perfectly okay -- for them to resent their situation from time to time.
Any adult will tell you -- it's challenging enough managing a single family consisting of parents and children in today's busy world. Keeping up with what's going on with kids at school, staying on top of homework, after-school activities, sports, and play dates, while balancing professional careers and putting in 150 percent at the office to maintain a family's financial stability is no easy feat. Throw the responsibilities of caring for an aging parent into that mix, and suddenly you're grocery shopping, taking mom or dad to doctor's appointments, trying to make sure your loved one is compliant with medications, and checking in several times each day to make sure your loved one is safe.
It's no wonder that many family caregivers are forced to cut back on their hours at work -- and many quit their jobs entirely in order to provide care for their loved ones. And in a world where two-income families aren't just the norm but the must, this often complicates already-tight finances -- especially when you're paying for your loved one's medications, food, or other expenses in addition to your own.
What you can do about it
There are many strides to be made in providing adequate support to family caregivers. And it's not all bad news -- most family caregivers report feelings of gratitude and self-worth, appreciating not only the fact that they're able to help someone they love, but that they're given the chance to spend more time with a person who's close to their hearts.
While formal programs are being developed and enhanced that will make the lives of caregivers a little easier, there are also hundreds of websites that provide advice for caregivers, tools for reducing caregiver stress, opportunities to connect with other caregivers or experts online for emotional support, apps for caregivers to stay organized and keep appointments and routines, and more. These resources provide a much-needed lifeline for caregivers who are feeling like they're reaching the end of the rope.
In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, there's one thing you can do that will make an incredible impact on another person's life. If you know someone who is serving as a family caregiver -- make a point to reach out and offer help, a shoulder to lean on, support, assistance with running errands, point them in the direction of a helpful program or online resource, or just offer simple appreciation for all that they do. Family caregivers tend to keep much of what they're dealing with on the inside, and while they may be crying out for help on the inside, they'll never ask. Extending a helping hand -- even just letting them know that you care -- could be the inspiration they need to get through the day.
Keep watching our blog -- throughout the month of November, we'll be highlighting some of the best resources for family caregivers. Have a favorite website, online support network, app or other resource? Tell us about it in the comments below or share it with us via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.
Image via CaregiverAction.org
Post by Angela Stringfellow