Thank you for Caring
You Do the Most Important Work in the World
Author: Karin Pauly
National Family Caregiver’s Month
November is National Family Caregiver’s month, a time to recognize and honor family and “informal” caregivers, the work they do, and to raise awareness of their importance and impact.
I frequently write and say, “Thank a Caregiver” or “Thank you for Caring” ~ and I don’t say this lightly. The feeling I have for caregivers is something I carry in my heart, in my gut, in my emotions, it is almost a visceral feeling for me. Caring for someone you love who is experience a long-term or chronic illness or disability is both rewarding and challenging beyond measure.
40 Million Caregivers in the U.S.
In the U.S. alone there are about 40 million caregivers; 20 million of these caregivers perform complex medical care with little or no instruction, saving our health care system billions of dollars with their unpaid care. Our healthcare system would face financial collapse without them. These activities include managing medications, wound care, preparing special diets, managing mobility aids and more.
Caregiving often includes emotional and social support, aiding in activities of daily living such as bathing, shopping, providing transportation, cooking, overseeing legal and financial affairs, and managing communication among family members. Doctor appointments and managing a complex health care system with bills, insurance is a big job in and of itself.
I Carried A Separate Briefcase Constantly
When I was caring for Nancy, I had a separate briefcase I carried with me constantly, with papers and information that I might need to reference at any time. It was a full-time job that often broke my heart, because all I really wanted was for Nancy to be my mom, and for me to be her daughter and to appreciate the time we had left. But, I had no choice as so many other caregivers have no choice and my heart goes out to all of you who are caregivers.
Carrying a Weight that Never Leaves
Caregivers carry a weight that never leaves them. It is in their hearts, their minds, and their souls. It impacts all that they do, at work, within family dynamics, in their social lives. Many suffer from health issues themselves as self-care is not a priority because they make the care receiver their priority. Mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, addiction, and for some even anger and resentment about lack of support and understanding are real. Grief over losing their “previous” relationship status with their loved one is difficult, along with knowing that their loved one will pass from this world. And then, of course, there is the guilt from feeling like you are not doing enough or acting the right way or even hoping and wishing things will change in the future so there is some relief.
I don’t want to paint a completely negative picture because caregiving can be rewarding, and the time caregivers share with their loved one is often precious ~ and some families are blessed with a loving support system. I encourage caregivers to take the time to cherish their experiences with their loved ones, to acknowledge the legacy of their lives together and to exercise self-care physically, emotionally, and to allow themselves to experience forgiveness and joy. However, it is important to acknowledge the enormous burden the caregiver carries and to show appreciation for all they do.
If you are a caregiver, thank you for doing the most important work in the world. If you know a caregiver, say thank you. If you are able, support them with a smile, a hug, a care package, offer to do even a small task for them.
Be aware that there are caregivers all around you, and when you find one, show appreciation and listen to their stories. They need you.