November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to praise and acknowledge family caregivers throughout the nation who provide their relative, partner, friend, or neighbor with support and care to function daily. The month gives us a chance to strengthen support for caregivers, educate communities about caregiving challenges, and promote awareness of these obstacles so that we can help overcome them. It’s also a time to remind family caregivers to take care of themselves too.
Family caregivers are unsung heroes. More often, our focus is on the challenges of the people being cared for. However, caring for others also can physically and mentally affect the caregiver’s health and well-being. Since it’s the caregiver’s job to provide support, they are often unable to seek help themselves.
Caregiving tasks vary, and some are more burdensome than others. According to Caregiver.org, the average age of caregivers is 49.2 years old, which means many have mounting responsibilities from work to other family members to care for. Due to the physical, emotional, mental, and financial toll that caregiving can take, caregivers should recognize that they shouldn’t neglect their personal physical and psychological health.
On airplane flights, we’re instructed by the cabin crew to always put on our own oxygen masks before helping others. Why? Because we may be so intent on helping others that we fail to recognize our own need to survive. Putting yourself first is not selfish act, especially if you’re investing in your health and well-being so that you can better care for someone else. As a caregiver, you deserve to celebrate your hard work and sacrifices. Here are some ways you can honor yourself this National Family Caregivers Month:
Make social connections. Try to maintain close relationships with loved ones and friends who can lend a sympathetic ear and offer moral support. Every week, set aside some time to connect, even if it’s just for a quick walk or to catch up over coffee.
Upgrade your tech. Learn about new technologies that may help you care for your loved one. Some technologies to consider are health tracking tools, GPS technology, medication alert apps, personal emergency response systems (PERS), and wireless home monitoring.
Increase your learning. Learn about the community resources available for providing care. Numerous communities offer lessons on the disease that your loved one has. There may even be free training where you can learn cooking, housekeeping, first aid, and basic medical first response.
Visit your doctor. If keeping track of your own health has been a challenge for you, use November each year as the time to see your doctor. Get recommended vaccinations and ask your physician if they recommend any screenings based on age, family history, risks, environmental exposures, etc.