Back in June we covered Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, when we joined with millions of others across America to raise awareness about this deeply impactful illness. This November, we are joining another month-long campaign — National Family Caregivers Month.
The Oxford dictionary defines a caregiver as “a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or sick, elderly or disabled person.” This definition covers an enormous array of people and actions. Caregivers might handle the physical and medical needs of a person. Or they may be a source of emotional and social support. Family caregivers, specifically, are relatives who provide services or support to their loved one, usually without pay.
When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, caregiving also involves lots of difficult decision-making. Family caregivers are usually responsible for stepping in and making choices that their relative is no longer able to make on their own.
What is National Family Caregivers Month?
The first National Family Caregivers Month was declared by President Bill Clinton in November 1997. Every president since then has followed suit for the past 23 years, proclaiming November to be the official month of recognition and awareness-raising for family caregivers.
Estimates put the number of unpaid caregivers in the United States at over 40 million. More than 15 million of them are caring for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. This month is a time to honor their compassionate work that too often goes unnoticed. It’s also a time to spread the word about resources that can help make the work a little easier.
Resources for Family Caregivers
Becoming a family caregiver doesn’t come with much training or advanced notice. Perhaps the most common experience amongst caregivers is a sense of being overwhelmed. Your loved one may have started behaving in a way that’s confusing or alarming. Or you may be staring down a jumble of Medicare documents with no idea where to start.
Overcoming these challenges requires resources, and there are a lot of good ones out there.
- The Alzheimer’s Association has put together some outstanding resources to help caregivers anticipate the changes brought about by the disease. They have even broken things down into early, middle and late stages, making it easier to find the information you’re looking for.
- Arthur’s Senior Care has created a video series called Insights from Arthur’s. It’s a resource for a range of common concerns expressed by caregivers for people with dementia. If you have questions about your loved one’s care or are looking to find out more about Arthur’s Senior Care services, you can also contact Deb Nygaard. She has 27 years of experience working with people experiencing Alzheimer’s and other memory impairments.
- The Department of Health and Human Services provides a solid clearinghouse of information from different official sources. This is a helpful page to visit for technical information. There are links to caregiving for a person on Medicare, locating eldercare in your area and more.
Show your Support this November
If you’re looking for ways to show your support for family caregivers, the Alzheimer’s Association has created a public message board dedicated to caregiver tributes. They’re also accepting donations in the name of caregivers and loved ones. The page itself is an inspirational read, filled with heartfelt tributes and words of support already shared.
Take, for example, this compassionate advice from Miriam G., herself a caregiver. “As caregivers, we must strive to live guilt-free,” she says. “There is no right or wrong decision that we make for our loved ones, just decisions.”
To all family caregivers, Arthur’s Senior Care wants to say thank you. Your courage and love for your family members inspire us. And for those families we have the privilege to work with, it is our honor to be included as part of your caregiving team.
If you find yourself in need of support or advice, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.