By Carol F. Barton
November was established as National Family Caregivers’ Month to honor people who give of themselves to be there for their family, friends, and neighbors in challenging times.
According to the Family Caregiving Alliance, 43.5 million caregivers provided unpaid care to an adult or child in 2015. That number seems to be growing daily. With such a staggering number of caregivers it is possible that you may know someone who is caring for a family member. However, you may not realize the extent of services they provide and the sacrifices it takes on their personal lives.
Many caregivers are untrained yet they need to become medically proficient in order to test blood, give injections, dispense medication and handle feeding tubes. Often their loved one requires assistance with very basic personal needs such as bathing, toileting, eating, and brushing their teeth. If that is not enough, caregivers must schedule numerous medical appointments and provide transportation to the appointment. They oversee physical and occupational therapy sessions. Others manage their financial needs, shopping, and they keep tabs on health insurance benefits which need constant navigation with insurers, Federal and state organizations to preserve their benefits.
In some instances, the care needs are so demanding the caregiver has to give up his/her job thus losing earnings and their own health benefits. The emotional and physical impact on many caregivers is enormous.
Caregivers have been called “unsung heroes.” Interestingly they do not look for such recognition rather they look at their contribution as one of love. But, sometimes caregivers also need consideration and attention.
If you know a caregiver, here are some ideas to help:
- Give them a call just to ask how they are doing and let them know that you are thinking of them. Just listening is helpful
- Offer to help by assisting them with one or two of their many chores such as shopping
- Occasionally cook or buy a meal and drop by for a visit
- Send them a care card and/or a bouquet of flowers to brighten their day
- Give them a break by offering to spend time with their loved one for several hours so he/she can get away for much needed alone time
- Don’t exclude them from activities simply because they have said no at times; suggest that they have a care assistant come in to care for their loved one
As specialists in estate planning and elder law at Estate Preservation Law Offices, we frequently work with family caregivers; in fact we have been personally touched by the caregiver commitment. We salute all family caregivers.
There are so many small, but thoughtful ways to help. Please take the time to reach out and let a caregiver know you care – not just during National Family Caregivers’ Month – but throughout their entire caring experience. A simple act of kindness will be appreciated deeply.