November is Caregiver Appreciation Month, and it’s a great time to recognize unsung heroes who do amazing work each day.
I’ve worked with hundreds of family caregivers over the years, and their stories never cease to amaze me. Most of them had no prior background in the field, but they stepped up when the need became apparent. That dedication to providing the best possible care at home is always compelling, and so worthy of recognition.
The official theme for Caregiver Appreciation Month 2018 is “Supercharge your Caregiving.” This means helping caregivers identify tools that can help, so that caregiving doesn’t become overwhelming. As director of an Adult Foster Care program, I can really identify with this theme. Family caregivers take on so much that they often neglect their own needs. A recent survey by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that roughly a third of caregivers had skipped or deferred their own medical or dental appointment—or a prescription refill—because they were too busy providing care.
The study also highlighted the importance of seeking help, noting that most caregivers don’t discuss the challenges of providing care with their doctors. But the ones that do usually receive important pointers on helpful resources and tips for self-care.
Problem solving and helping caregivers succeed is central to Adult Foster Care. Funded through MassHealth, Adult Foster Care provides training, compensation, and paid time off for caregivers assisting family or friends who cannot live alone.
Our nurses and social workers often remind caregivers to make time for self-care, and technology can be helpful there. Medication management is a relatively straightforward area where a smartphone can help, by scheduling reminders of what medication should be taken, and when. Wearable tech (such as smart watches and wristbands) can help with monitoring vital signs and location, which can be very helpful for maintaining health and well-being.
My own organization, Adult Family Care, is promoting a more old fashioned way to help supercharge caregiving. This month we are giving each of our caregivers a 16-ounce steel tumbler, which is filled with candy and covered with the words “thank you” in 16 different languages.
Family caregivers do such important work. Please join us in supporting and recognizing them, both in November and throughout the coming year.
Jeanne Leyden is a registered nurse and director of Adult Family Care, a non-profit Adult Foster Care program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services that provides training and compensation for family caregivers across the Greater Boston, North Shore, and Merrimack Valley areas. For more information, visit adultfamilycare.org or call 617-628-2601.