Mental Health America (MHA) is proud to recognize November as National Family Caregivers Month – a time to celebrate caregivers’ contributions, provide them with tools that they need, and continue to advocate for individuals with mental illness.
There are over 60 million Americans who are unpaid caregivers to family, friends and neighbors, according to a study by AARP Public Policy Division. Canadian government statistics show over eight million people, or 28% of persons over 15years of age, provide long term care at home for a family member or friend. As the baby boomers age, the need for caregiving is expected to grow. One in five caregivers in the USA helps someone with a mental illness.
Caregiving can often have a significant impact on the life of the caregiver in more ways than one. According to Mental Health America, 34% of caregivers experience a decline in their own health while caregiving. 85% do not get a break under normal circumstances, and that percentage is likely higher during the COVID pandemic. And one in four caregivers experiences depression.
Many IOKDS members are or have been family or friend caregivers. During this special month, we celebrate their work and dedication. As a Christian service organization, we also want to help both the caregiver and care receiver despite pandemic safety rules that may discourage our usual offers of meals, transportation to appointments, errands, or providing an opportunity for time out of the house. What can we do now as individual members and in our local Circles to support both?
Surveys show caregivers find three things helpful: 1) 73% identify prayer; 2) 61% identify talking; 3) 44% identify reading. The pandemic does not stop any of us from supporting another person in these ways. Each of us can pray for others and with others providing spiritual support. Perhaps we can share our devotional readings over the telephone or with an email or Facebook communication. Set a telephone date and time of convenience for a fifteen-minute chat. Share your favorite book through your local library’s electronic home access.
One in four caregivers report feelings of depression, which is understandable. If you feel the caregiver is unusually lonely, sad, and hopeless, help them seek professional help. Likewise, if they seem unusually anxious, angry, and overly tired, suggest they seek professional help. To do so, you do not have to be the resource center yourself. In a kind but direct manner, suggest your concern for them and ask them to consider visiting www.mhascreening.org to take an anonymous, confidential, free screening self- assessment. The screening evaluation provides an objective assessment and can provide assurance and instruction of help available and how it can be accessed.
Encourage the caregiver to take care of themselves to be able to care for another. With the holidays approaching, we all will be coping with changes in the holiday routine. Pandemic fatigue finds us all trying to cope ahead. The caregiver’s situation may leave them with few ways to pivot. Hear their story. #FamilyCaregiversMonth
Dianne Foglesong, IN
IOKDS Communications Director