Why National Family Caregivers Month Matters (Even on Election Day)

If you have not voted yet, stop reading this now! Please go vote and then come back to my blog.

There – I’ve done my civic duty by urging you to vote (and yes, I voted at 7:30 AM). In case I wasn’t persuasive enough, perhaps this little dude Truett can convince you (Oh, and I want permission to say “indivisible” like he does!).

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about National Family Caregivers Month. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to downplay the importance of the election. I just know that you’re already being inundated with more than enough writing about this historic day without me chipping in my two cents. Plus, National Family Caregivers Month matters, even on Election Day.

Why? Because family caregivers matter. In fact, that’s the theme this year for the honorary month. As I’ve said before, caregivers are the silent heroes of our society, and they deserve our appreciation and support – not just in November, but during every month of the year.

The National Family Caregivers Association initiated this annual honor by creating National Family Caregivers Week in 1994. In 1997, President Clinton signed the first official proclamation, and every president since has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation celebrating family caregivers. Eventually, National Family Caregivers Week became National Family Caregivers Month.

National Family Caregivers Month has four goals:

To raise awareness of family caregiving issues among multiple audiences. Even though there are over 65 million family caregivers in the United States providing vital care for loved ones, the needs and sacrifices of family caregivers are still widely unknown.

Celebrate the efforts of family caregivers. Much of society is still in the dark regarding the time and energy required to be a caregiver. Many do not realize that caregiving is often more demanding than a full-time job – and that a good portion of caregivers hold down full-time jobs while also being a caregiver!

Educate family caregivers about identifying as a caregiver. Many family members who are providing care for a loved one do not think of themselves as caregivers. Instead, they think, “I’m just helping out a little bit here and there,” or “I’m just doing what anyone else would do.” This deprives them of support and services that can provide real help.

Increase support for family caregivers. National Family Caregivers Month is also an opportunity to reach out to government officials about the need for more and better caregiver services. When ample support services are in place, this lessens the burden on family caregivers as well as the health care system as a whole.

If you are a family caregiver, thank you for what you do. Celebrate yourself this month by doing something that will make your job as a caregiver a little easier: attend a caregiver event, join a support group or online community, or explore respite care options near you (Do this by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging – find it here.).

And if you’re not a caregiver but want to get involved, I’ve got the perfect solution. Lotsa Helping Hands – an online tool that helps caregivers find and coordinate help by creating both private and open communities – has launched its campaign to make 2013 The Year of Helping Hands. The goal is to invite the nation to join the cause by making a promise to help a caregiver in 2013.

Make your promise here.

And thank you for voting! You’ve made Truett proud.

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