“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” – Rosalynn Carter
What is a Caregiver?
According to Rosalynn Carter, everyone is connected to a caregiver somehow, but the reality is that many people do not realize that they are a caregiver. Caregiving is a spectrum that depends on the care recipient’s age, ability, capacity, and other support systems that are in use. Some caregivers have light support duties they can do on a weekly basis, while others must provide 24-hour care and assistance.
As the holidays approach, caregivers please remember…
(1) It’s important to schedule time for self-care
Find your favorite holiday season activity or tradition and schedule a time where you can get away to enjoy it. Some suggestions include…
- Treat yourself to an afternoon where you drink a mug of hot chocolate (with extra marshmallows and whipped cream) and enjoy your favorite book, newspaper, or magazine
- Bundle up and take a stroll through Christmas lights in your neighborhood with your spouse, pet, or someone else special
- Have a traditional snowball fight, build a snowman, and make snow angels
(2) Traditions change and it is okay
Realistic expectations are key to having a fun holiday season. The person you care for might not be able to place the tree topper on top of the tree anymore, but now it is someone else’s turn to take over that responsibility. Be positive as changes occur, but also let yourself feel disappointed, nostalgic, sad, hopeful, and anything else that you may feel.
(3) You must communicate your needs and expectations clearly
The holidays are like caregiving: complicated and stressful, yet rewarding. Communicate with your support system on what you need this holiday season as early as you can. Do not expect them to ask or be able to read your mind. If you are a support person to a caregiver, try to go out of your way to offer help. Caregivers often do not realize or want to admit they need help due to not wanting to be a burden.
(4) There are resources available!
Family Caregiver Navigator Program: No matter the caregiving situation – caregiving in any form can be both a joy and a sacrifice. The joys of caregiving can vary from seeing a smile on your loved one’s face or spending more time with them; however, sacrifices like less sleep and less time for self-care can take a toll on a caregiver. As many as 41% of caregivers reported a negative side effect like depression; therefore, programs like the Family Caregiver Navigator (FCN) program are so vital. FCN is a free, remote program that helps family caregivers connect with resources throughout Idaho to improve their quality of life. Navigators work with informal caregivers to create plans to address their stress and burnout as well as help them navigate systems and resources that could be of use to them.
A Month of Recognition for Caregivers
November was first declared National Family Caregiver Month through a Presidential proclamation by President Obama in 2014. This month has since been used as a time to recognize and honor the 53 million unpaid family caregivers across the country. Over the years, November has proven to be a great opportunity to celebrate family caregivers, spread awareness of caregiver issues, educate the community, and strengthen support for this population. This is a time to celebrate family caregivers and educate people so remember to speak up this month, tell your story, ask for help if you’re a caregiver, offer to help if you know one, and don’t forget that you are seen, you are loved and you are not alone.
Written by: Edwina French, MPH, CHES & Hanna Scheuffele, MPH, CHES
For more information about the Family Caregiver Navigator program, please email email@example.com or call 208-426-5899.