For good reason, much of the conversation around chronic illness is focused on the individual who’s suffering. November is National Family Caregivers Month, the perfect opportunity to touch upon difficult topics like caregiver anxiety and burnout — and to celebrate the work that they do. With the rising costs of assisted living and the lack of accessibility to these facilities, home care from a spouse, parent or child is a vital part of affordable illness management. From short-term help around the house following a total hip, elbow or shoulder replacement to long-term care for those with cancer or terminal condition, the need is high.
Support for Caregivers
As the person providing support for someone suffering from a chronic illness, the emotional needs of caregivers can sometimes be pushed aside. Studies on the mental state of caregivers show that caring for family members can lead to lower quality of life without proper support. The good news, however, is that social and community interventions have a big impact on these effects. When caregivers are given appropriate coping mechanisms and outlets for their difficult roles, they struggle far less.
Preventing Caregiver Illness
It’s thankfully becoming an acknowledged part of the medical field to counsel home caregivers in addition to the person suffering from the chronic illness on how to best tackle problems as they arise. Caregivers are more likely to develop their own physical health problems than non-caregivers, leading to a cycle that’s difficult to break.
Awareness — and Celebration
At the end of the day, one of the most common themes in the research into home caregivers is that awareness of the possible issues is key. We can’t rely on their perpetual help without seeing to their needs as well as those of the person suffering the disease. Here’s the thing, though. Caregivers are often selfless and focused nearly exclusively on the health of their partner or family member. Getting them to take some well-deserved mental and emotional breaks could be an uphill battle for many. It’s up to all of us to create an environment that supports self-care.
This November, do something nice for someone who’s taken on the rewarding but sometimes difficult task of caregiving. Whether it’s simply a kind word or a meaningful gesture, telling them that they are seen and appreciated can go far.