Each November, we celebrate National Family Caregivers Month along with Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. This is an important reminder of the invaluable contributions of family caregivers. There are some 34 million family caregivers in the U.S., providing $470 million worth of unpaid care (2013 data) for adults aged 50+. Over 15 million adult family caregivers care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2015)
National Family Caregivers Month Theme
This year’s National Family Caregivers Month theme is “take care to give care”. Only by taking care of themselves first can caregivers be strong enough for the duties of caregiving. As organizations and as a society, we must also focus on how we can take care of caregivers so they are able to provide care to the best of their abilities. Here are a few tips on this theme to help you “take care to give care”. Dedicate this National Family Caregivers Month to making one small change, doing one important thing for your health, seeking a new resource, or taking some respite time. Then, try to slowly incorporate more changes throughout the next several months.
National Family Caregivers Month Action Tips
Caregiving is stressful. It is important to have some release from that stress. Find out what works for you. Perhaps you need to plan time to chat with friends each week (or even a professional, who can help you work through your emotions). Or, take one afternoon/week for rest or an outing. Make sure you have easy activities you can do at home that help you reduce stress. Maybe it is short meditation (there are great apps for that!) or a hobby like knitting. How about listening to favorite music or watching some comedy on YouTube? For a quick laugh, we recommend this Seinfeld episode where he volunteers to help an older man…you just might relate!
It is vital to guard your own health. Caregiving can take a toll on your health. The stress and physical strain of caregiving can weaken your immune system. And, you may be exposed to germs if you are in and out of doctor’s offices, hospitals, etc. Take a moment this month to schedule any exams, immunizations or follow-up appointments you’ve been putting off (you don’t have to do them all immediately, but get them scheduled!).
One important thing you can do to boost your health is to improve your nutrition. This is a simple (but not always easy!) way to strengthen your body. Start with small changes. Add more variety to your diet with a couple extra servings of fruits and veggies. This is great for you and your care recipient! Try out a new healthy recipe this month. There are lots of quick, simple healthy recipes and meal ideas online. Or, hire a caregiver to come in and prepare some meals in advance or use a meal service like Peach Dish. We have reviewed some meal services such as Mom’s Meals in the past and hope to bring you more first-hand reviews in the future. Sign up for our newsletter for updates!
Another vital step is to get some exercise. Strengthening and balance exercises are particularly important to help you stay safe as you assist with physical needs or household tasks. If you can’t find much time, there are many programs you can do at home. Check out YouTube for videos like these or consider hiring our recommended in-home personal trainers (who can also work with your aging loved one!).
Remember this mantra shared by the Caregivers Action Network: rest, recharge, respite! To learn more about respite care, see Respite Care 101 from EasyLiving.
Want to take the first step for your own health and well-being as a caregiver? Call us at 727-447-5845!