November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to honor those who have taken on the role of caring for an aging loved one.
NFCM was first proclaimed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton and has been observed by every sitting American president each year since its origin.
This gives Americans the opportunity to not only celebrate family caregivers, but to also recognize these unsung heroes who make the ultimate sacrifice in caring for their family members. With 78 percent of aging adults living in the United States in need of long-term care, many will depend on family and friends as their only source of assistance in this transition.
Family caregivers can assume many tasks in order to help maintain the quality of life for their loved one, including taking care of personal hygiene, medication reminders, meal preparation and remaining the closest companion to the loved one.
Even with family caregivers in place, there are still more challenges that need to be overcome. The need for caregivers will not show signs of slowing in the future either; over the next 14 years, the baby boomer population will be turning 65 years old at a rate of about 8,000 per day, continuously increasing the need for care.
Family caregivers spend an average of 20 hours a week assisting their loved ones. This time commitment can make it incredibly difficult for them to not only continue previous obligations in their own lives, but also to maintain their own well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 67 percent of family caregivers report that they do not go to the doctor because they put their family’s needs first. Continued stress on the family caregiver can take its toll; spousal elderly caregivers between the ages of 66 and 96 who experience the stress of caregiving have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than the recipient of the care.
There are many ways to reduce the stress a family caregiver often feels. One important way is by offering to assist with the person who is in need. By doing so, the family caregiver can get the respite time he or she so desperately needs to accomplish simple errands, such as grocery shopping, visiting the doctor or simply reading a book.
Other ways to assist can include spending time with the family caregiver, helping to clean around the house, or doing simple errands like taking care of any animals in the home.
While these seem like small ways to help, your assistance will give the family caregiver the relief of knowing these tasks have been accomplished.
Celebrating the roles of family caregivers will help to encourage the health and well-being of both the loved one in need and the family caregiver. Family caregivers can often feel overwhelmed, but by taking on an active role in helping the caregiver, we can drastically improve the lives of everyone involved.
While National Family Caregivers Month is a time to celebrate those who take on the role, the need to help these individuals continues throughout the year. The family caregivers continue to be unsung heroes each and every day and are a true testament to the importance of family.
This holiday season, recognize those family members who continue to go above and beyond as caregivers, whether you help by assisting in household chores or completing errands. By doing so, you will be allowing the family caregiver to get the respite time he or she needs to become a better caregiver for the family member they are serving.
Bob Roth is managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, LLC. For more information, visit cypresshomecare.com.