November is National Family Caregivers Month. This year’s theme announced by the Caregiver Action Network is “Caregiving in Crisis.” It’s an appropriate theme as the coronavirus pandemic has propelled family caregiving into the national spotlight. In 2020, many Americans found themselves as caregivers for the very first time.
This year’s election was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic. The new administration will have its hands full in trying to bring the pandemic under control, while initiating economic reforms to stabilize the economy. Once again, caregivers play a critical role in both areas.
Here are a few high priorities on my caregiver wish list:
- Increased financial support for family caregivers: With unemployment rates still high due to the pandemic, it is critical that we offer ample funds and other benefits to those family caregivers who are at financial risk. You cannot care for others if you can’t care for yourself first.
- More affordable health care options: The ACA was a start, but has significant gaps. The haphazard federal response so far to the pandemic has left some people with pricey medical bills. Hospitals are closing in rural areas when medical care is needed the most. If we’ve learned nothing else from 2020, it is that affordable and accessible health care is a critical need.
- Increased pay, benefits for professional caregivers: Family members cannot do it all on their own. But the caregiver workforce in America is woefully underpaid. We must improve the pay, benefits and educational opportunities for caregivers so we can attract the best people to these jobs which the pandemic has illustrated are of immense importance.
- Build a modern eldercare infrastructure: Our population will continue to grow older, live longer and the majority of people want to age in their own homes. We’ll need to develop accessible housing, strengthen our home care network and improve elder resources, especially in rural areas, so that people can grow old where they want, but safely and with ample support.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. The National PACE Association says this year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” If you’ve been a caregiver, you wholeheartedly agree with that theme!
AlzAuthors has two exciting promotions going on to mark the special month. First, the group of Alzheimer’s authors has released an anthology, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Stories, featuring the personal stories of 58 AlzAuthors contributors. I am honored to be one of the contributors. The book will be released Nov. 7.
AlzAuthors is recognizing and honor family caregivers of those with dementia across the country by hosting a book sale and giveaway. The eBook sale will run from Nov. 7-Nov. 13. Books will range in price from free to $2.99, to help those on limited budgets access worthy books that can help them on their own caregiving journeys.
My book, The Reluctant Caregiver, will be on sale for just 99 cents during the promotion. The award-winning collection of personal essays offers a nontraditional view of family caregiving, and includes several essays about the challenges of caring for those with dementia.
This is the last AlzAuthors book sale of the year, so don’t miss out!
I learned a lot about caregiving from my mother.
Before November slips away, I want to recognize that this is National Family Caregivers Month. I love this year’s theme: “Take Care to Give Care.” Supporting family caregivers is something I believe strongly in, and I am grateful I have the opportunity to give back.
My development of the Respite Care Share concept continues, and I’m working on the poster presentation that will take place at the 2017 Aging in America conference. Along the way, I’ve met many dedicated family caregiver advocates. We have a long ways to go, but as with most things, a grassroots-level, community-based approach will generate quicker results than waiting for government action.
The Caregiver Action Network offers good tips for family caregivers on managing their own health.
- Stress: Family caregivers often face a tremendous amount of stress, yet ignore their own mental and physical health. I was certainly guilty of this when I was a caregiver. It’s important to take steps to minimize and manage stress, and promptly address any health issues that arise.
- Healthy lifestyle: It’s easy to throw out healthy habits like a nutritious diet and regular exercise when you are overwhelmed with family caregiving duties. But a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle can make one feel sluggish, and more vulnerable to experiencing health consequences from stress. There was a walking trail adjacent to my mother’s condo, so I went almost daily for walks, which helped relieve stress.
- “Rest. Recharge. Respite.” I love this mantra from the Caregiver Action Network. My sleep was disrupted every day when I was caregiving for my mother, and there was no way to avoid that (leaking colostomy bags always seem to occur at 3 a.m. and will not wait!), but I tried to make sure I got a set amount of hours of sleep each day. I did take breaks when Mom was stable enough, and that really helped.
A big thank you to all of the family caregivers out there, who are facing another hectic holiday season. There are many people focused on providing greater support for family caregivers, so don’t give up hope.