Caring for a loved one can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It can also be among life’s greatest challenges. November both is Family Caregivers Month and includes the Thanksgiving holiday, and it’s a great time for caregivers to remember to take care of themselves and incorporate gratitude into their lives as they navigate the rewards and difficulties of caring for an ailing loved one.
According to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, more than 34 million Americans act as informal, unpaid caregivers for a family member. From that vast swath of the population, 47% experience anxiety and 42% experience depression. According to Mental Health America, 7% of caregivers are more likely to feel discriminated against at work because of their role and 14% are more likely to report having a high difficulty finding affordable services.
Additionally, it’s important to note that other aspects of life aren’t often placed on pause when someone is caring for a loved one. They may still have children of their own to care for and households to manage. According to Mental Health America, 10% of caregivers are also enrolled in college or other classes.
These statistics are excellent reminders that family caregivers need to take steps to ensure their own wellbeing.
Often forgotten and under-appreciated, the Caregiver Action Network offers 10 self-care tips. Suggestions include:
- Seek support from other caregivers to remind yourself that you’re not alone in your caregiving journey.
- Remember to make your own health a priority.
- Don’t be afraid to accept help from others, and remember that its OK to suggest specific things that people can do to help you.
- Learn to communicate well with doctors and other members of your loved one’s care team.
- Take respite breaks often.
- Be aware of the signs of anxiety and depression and get help if you need it.
- Take advantage of new technologies that can assist in your caregiving.
- Don’t hesitate to give yourself credit for the important work you are doing for your loved one.
- Keep legal documents organized and in order.
- Make sure medical information is organized, up to date, and easy to find.
One activity that many family caregivers find rewarding is creating a gratitude box, which can be a container that the caregiver decorates with images or objects that inspire them. Inside the box they place reminders of what they are grateful for in their lives, either all at once or over the course of days, weeks, or months. Opening the box around the winter holidays, typically a time when families get together, helps to remind the caregiver of all they are grateful for.
As we take time to mark Family Caregivers Month, it’s appropriate to celebrate a job well done. Taking care of a loved one isn’t an easy task but allow yourself to take a moment to be grateful for being able to assist a loved one when they are in need. It is a part of a loved one’s life that many do not have an opportunity to assist with.
Do you or a loved one need help at home? Email email@example.com now to learn how we can alleviate stress and provide individuals with the highest quality of life.