November is a very special month. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Then, in 1994, the National Family Caregivers Association began promoting national recognition of family caregivers. A few years later, President Clinton signed the first National Family Caregivers Month Presidential Proclamation in November, and ever since, every president has done the same.
Family members, friends, and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.
— President Barack Obama, NFC Month Proclamation 2012
Celebratory months like these always carry the mission of bringing much-needed attention to deserving causes and people. According to Caregiver Action Network, celebrating National Family Caregivers month allows both the caregiving community and everyone else to raise awareness of family caregiver issues, increase support for family caregivers, educate them about self-identification, and celebrate their nothing-less-than-heroic efforts.
Following suit, a wonderful way to engage and participate in NFC is to spread awareness about the importance of getting help.
There are a number of tools and services out there, both designed specifically for caregivers and not, that can help any caregiver cope better with the daunting responsibility that comes with the constant care of another person. Caregivers must find help and overcome the feeling that they’re supposed to do it all. Whether you’re a caregiver or know one, here are some ways to lessen the weight.
Get Help Finding Help
There are professionals, like Aging Life Care Managers, who specializes in local programs and helping caregivers find the help they actually need more efficiently than if they tried on their own, saving time and money. These professionals can make home visits, complete assessments, make informed and customized recommendations, and help facilitate family meetings to build consensus.
There are also home services including home health care, home care, and hospice care. Some caregivers also hire help themselves, which requires a thorough understanding of the risks and responsibilities that come along with that, including performing background checks, drug screening, and training. But in the end, it doesn’t matter how — just get the help.
Invest In Your Peace of Mind
While the care a caregiver provides is constant, this doesn’t mean that a caregiver is able to be by their patient’s or loved one’s side 24/7. Many times, caregivers don’t take care of themselves properly or spend any time away out of fear and anxiety of something happening in their absence. Or, a caregiver also has a part or full-time job to juggle, but the anxiety of being away impacts their ability to perform. And of course, endless errands must be run.
Besides ensuring extra caregiving coverage when necessary, a wonderful way to help add some peace of mind is investing in a comprehensive security and alarm system that can sync up to a mobile device and send alerts. Features like motion detection and camera integration could allow a caregiver to essentially be home without being home. A human support element, however, is essential. The company should have a number of different ways caregivers can get support when they need it. SimpliSafe, for example, has been awarded for their 24/7 professional monitoring and reliability, and replies to customer tweets on their Twitter account and is genuine about their readiness to communicate.
Find The Right Resources
Resources for caregivers come in many forms, and the amount of resources available can be overwhelming. It’s important to search as specific to your situation as you can. For example, Alzheimer caregivers should spend their time seeking out and connecting with reputable Alzheimer organizations and communities. This will ensure that the information is truly useful and tailored to make a direct and lasting impact.
The Alzheimer’s Association has a number of tools for Alz caregivers, including a Care Team Calendar that helps organize family and friends, an online assessment tool that creates customized Alzheimer’s action plans, and an ALZConnected online caregiver community. And then, of course, there are the resources I have carefully curated here.
Give And Take Support
Everything discussed above is a mode of support, in some way shape or form. But the strongest support comes from other people. That’s why The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver exists. Talking and sharing leads to connection, and caregivers need to know they’re not alone and that they can’t nor should they shoulder the weight alone. Caregivers are heroes, yes, but they’re still human.
If you’re a caregiver, make an extra effort to also take care of yourself this month and beyond. If you know a caregiver, lend a hand they didn’t ask for. If you don’t know a caregiver, consider at least spreading the word and spotlighting the fact that this month goes out to the 40 million caregivers we have out there.