November is National Family Caregivers Month as affirmed in a presidential proclamation on October 30. The proclamation states:
Each day in homes throughout our Nation, Americans with chronic or terminal illnesses, functional impairment, or disabilities receive compassionate care and support from family members and loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we salute the more than 40 million people in the United States who serve as unpaid caregivers. With generous hearts and faithful devotion, they honor the sanctity of life and affirm the inherent value of all human beings.
In 2018, two pieces of legislation, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act and the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which provide for the development of strategies and support networks for family caregivers, were signed into law. These acts add to a growing portfolio of caregiver support related programs administered by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Sounds Good But Is There Any Progress?
I’m particularly interested in RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage) act progress. September marked the first full year of the act’s advisory council and they reported; “In its first year, the council held five public meetings, conducted a federal inventory of current programs and initiatives that could support family caregivers, identified opportunities to collaborate further and streamline efforts, and sought and documented input from caregivers, stakeholders, and others as part of the council’s work of writing a report to Congress and developing a National Caregiving Strategy.”
All well and good but clearly not a fast-tracked operation, and who knows what the future holds after the election. The good news is that there is recognition of the role that family caregivers play across the US, and that role is growing as the recently released National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP 2020 Caregiving in the U.S. report sets the number of unpaid family caregivers at 53 million. I’ll continue to monitor these activities as best I can with all the bureaucracy, and provide updates when needed.
So, What About National Family Caregivers Month?
If you’re a family caregiver, this month is a great time to educate those around you about your role. If you’re not a caregiver, this month (and any other month) is a great time to recognize the efforts of those family caregivers around you. We can all work to raise awareness of family caregiver issues, celebrate the efforts of family caregivers, educate family caregivers about resources available to them, and increase support for family caregivers.
Family caregivers are most stressed during this pandemic as they bear the burden of caring for their loved ones and themselves. An excellent way to understand the situation is to read the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s Caregivers in Crisis report released in October. The survey showed that; “caregivers expressed a need for more support than they are getting, particularly naming the following: Respite and daycare, social interaction, peer support and self-care, financial assistance, and clinical and in-home care services.
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that my biggest challenges are finding the time and a way to take a break and dealing with the fear of contracting COVID-19 since I am high risk. With the pandemic interfering with Thanksgiving this month, an important opportunity for family togetherness (and maybe a break) will likely be lost, so let’s work to find ways to provide the virtual hugs and tenderness we all need.
What’s your contribution to National Family Caregivers Month? I’d love to spread some good ideas around.
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