National Family Caregivers Month 2023: Caregiving Around the Clock
While we honor and appreciate the dedication and compassion of caregivers every day, the month of November is officially designated as a time to acknowledge the incredible role that family caregivers fulfill. The theme for this year’s National Caregivers Month is “Caregiving Around the Clock”.
There are approximately 65 million Americans providing care for a loved one1 and they are integral to the overall health, wellness, and independence of those living with disabilities. Whether a family member or friend, the love and dedication family caregivers provide is essential to helping those within their care live happier, more fulfilling, and more independent lives.
This month, ENEMEEZ® is celebrating family caregivers by taking a look at the history of National Family Caregivers Month, discussing the challenges caregivers face, and highlighting ways they can prioritize self-care and access meaningful resources and support systems.
The History of National Family Caregivers Month
A family caregiver is anyone - whether a family member or friend - who provides assistance in the daily living activities for a person with any sort of disability or physical/mental limitation. Family caregivers help with a myriad of daily tasks, including medication management, bathing and dressing, meal preparation, transportation, and bowel care management.
While caregivers are dedicated to their role and helping those within their care, it can come with a great deal of personal sacrifice. The month of November was specifically chosen to honor caregivers for their efforts and the unwavering support they provide for their loved ones.
National Family Caregivers Month originally began as ‘National Family Caregivers Week’ in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan signed the first proclamation celebrating family caregivers across the United States for their selflessness and dedication to caring for their loved one.
From 1989 to 2009, the standing president followed suit by signing an annual proclamation acknowledging the week-long celebration and recognition of family caregivers. In 2010, President Barack Obama’s annual proclamation expanded the celebration to take place throughout the entire month of November – thus the beginning of what we now know as ‘National Family Caregivers Month’.
Family Caregivers Face Many Challenges
While caregiving can be highly rewarding and bring a sense of satisfaction and purpose, it is important to understand and recognize the mental, emotional, and physical toll caregiving brings as well. In addition to wellness issues, caregiving can bring social and economic stressors to the caregiver’s life.
It is not uncommon for caregivers to sacrifice their own personal wellbeing, health, and comfort for their loved one2. Caregivers often juggle additional home and work responsibilities in addition to the care they provide their loved one.
National Family Caregivers Month strives to bring awareness to the needs of caregivers and stimulate changes to the support systems provided to them to ensure caregivers have the resources, education, and information they need to minimize the stress of caregiving.
Caregiving for a Loved One with Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury (SCI) changes not just the life of individuals, but also their loved ones. Tasks that used to be performed independently now typically require help from a family caregiver, including performing everyday tasks like dressing, bathing, grooming, and bowel/bladder dysfunction.
Bowel Management and Family Caregivers
Bowel care is an issue that isn’t always pleasant to discuss, but it’s an essential aspect of health, wellness, and autonomy for many individuals with disabilities. Learning how to help your loved one with a bowel care management system is often one of the most critical parts of being a family caregiver.
Every individual has different bowel needs, so it’s important to learn about what works best for your loved one. Assisting a daily bowel routine helps to avoid complications such as constipation, fecal incontinence, and other gastrointestinal issues.
Self-Care is Vital for Family Caregivers
Taking care of yourself is vital for family caregivers, although it can be hard to prioritize. All too often, caregivers put the needs of their loved one before their own and it’s important to remember to take care of yourself, too. Here are some important things for a family caregiver to consider3 when caring for a loved one:
- Carve out “me time”. Block out time each day to engage in activities that lift your spirits and boost your wellness, like a walk, reading, yoga, meditation, or spending time with friends.
- Stay active. Physical activity is not only good for the body; it’s also good for the mind. Exercise is a fantastic way to relieve stress. Even getting outside for a 20 minute walk every day can make a big difference.
- Prioritize nutrition. Just like you do for your loved one, remember to eat a balanced diet that includes vegetables and fruit. Reduce or eliminate caffeine, alcohol, or excess sugar.
- Get enough sleep. When caring for a loved one around-the-clock, sleep can become a precious commodity. When you can’t predict how your sleep will go at night, it’s important to find time to rest or nap. If this isn’t feasible, consider asking a friend or loved one for help to ensure you can get adequate rest.
- Find a community. There are many support communities for family caregivers both online and offline. Talking to others who understand what you’re going through and who can offer advice, compassion, and understanding is key for your mental and emotional well-being.
The Thrive Community Support for Family Caregivers
The Thrive Community Facebook Group, powered by ENEMEEZⓇ, is a wonderful resource to help caregivers meet others in their local SCI community and begin making these valuable connections.
The Thrive Community is an ever-growing, private space for any person with a disability, as well as caregivers and healthcare providers that touch their lives. The sole purpose of the Thrive Community is to provide a safe, educational space for group members to ask every question, connect with their peers, and empower each other through communication and connection.
For more enlightening resources, information, and discussion, join the ENEMEEZ® Thrive Community today!
Raising Awareness for National Family Caregivers Month 2023
The goal of National Caregivers Month is to raise awareness of the role of a family caregiver and provide resources, tools, and information to help raise awareness about the critical role caregivers play every day in the lives of those with disabilities.
The Caregiver Action Network4 provides many useful resources, tools, and supports, including:
If you are a caregiver, lend your voice to this effort and share your story to help other caregivers feel less alone.
Disclaimer: The material contained is for reference purposes only. Quest Healthcare, A Division of Quest Products, LLC, does not assume responsibility for patient care. Consult a physician prior to use. Copyright 2023 Quest Healthcare, A Division of Quest Products, LLC.