There are an estimated 44 million of us. Those of us managing the health concerns and daily tasks of a family member. We are caregivers. In Britain, they would call us Carers which I prefer, more to the point the giving is implicit. Most of us are untrained and we come to this extra job before, after and sometimes during work, weekends and holidays gradually and find our skills (or lack thereof) along the way.
The theme of this year's National Caregiver's Month is
“Supercharge Your Caregiving”
There are ideas and recommendations on how to learn new ways of offering care to take better care of both your loved one and yourself.
If you are caring for someone at home safety and security is your first priority. Technology is offering us gadgets which can help with personal safety, with little impact on their independence, while offering some relief to the caregiver when they can't be there 24/7. Add to this, the wonderful world of phone apps. There are apps for fitness tracking, monitoring vital signs, fall detection, and GPS location services. You can keep track of medications, set reminders and keep an updated medical history all on your phone.
The Caregiver's Action Network has these recommendations for how caregivers should care for themselves.
- Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
- Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
- Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
- Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
- Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks often.
- Watch out for signs of depression and don't delay getting professional help when you need it.
- Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
- Organize medical information so it's up to date and easy to find.
- Make sure legal documents are in order.
- Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!
This 10 item list is actually massive. There are those of us for whom there is no time to take time for ourselves the way we should. That is where both seeking support and accepting help are critical. And seriously make recommendation number 10 - number 1 in your mind.
Take some time this November to celebrate the contribution of those friends and family members who support a loved one with their care!