November is Family Caregivers Month. This year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” Family caregivers spend years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds meeting and anticipating the needs of others. Family caregiving spans across all generations, including Boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Z, Millennials, and Silent. A recent study reveals the number of Americans providing unpaid care has increased over the past five years from 43.5 million to 53 million. The study also reveals family caregivers are in worse health compared to five years ago (National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP).
Informal or unpaid caregivers (family members or friends) are the backbone of long-term care provided in homes. Although being a family caregiver can be rewarding, the demands can take a toll on the health and well-being of the caregiver. The exhaustion and worry of continuous care can be incredibly stressful and lead to sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise. Family caregivers are more likely to develop chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and obesity. They are also at an increased risk for depression, as well as alcohol and drug abuse (American Family Care).
Family caregivers may not realize they are caregivers. Often an “abrupt, unexpected” event happens, which forces one to look into a mirror and say, “I’m a caregiver.” Though difficult, family caregivers must learn to take care of themselves; not blame themselves, back off, let others help when available, not feel guilty, and become their own best friend.
For all my fellow family caregivers,
I want you to know; I see you getting tired.
I want you to know; I can feel your weight.
I want you to know; I can hear you thinking.
How much more can I take?
Hold on. Be strong. Don’t quit, Don’t give up, Don’t give in.
Even when decisions you make break your heart.
Remember, you’re a caregiver. Remember you’re a caregiver.
There are arms open; to hug your fears.
There’s a breeze stirring; to dry your tears.
There’s a rainbow coming; to brighten your world.
There are oceans calming; to give you a pearl.
There are raindrops falling; to water your bloom.
There are waves parting; to give you some room.
There are trees bending; that owe you shade.
There is time waiting; for sacrifices you’ve made.
Remember, you’re a caregiver; remember you’re a caregiver.
Poem written by America’s Heroes Group Roundtable “We are Globally Connected with Military Families Matters” Partner Caregiver Keisha Jackson; a 22-year retired Air Force veteran. After caring for her mother who had Stage 4 inoperable lung cancer, Keisha started learning about caregiver resources to share with other caregivers.