Powering Up: Reassess and Re-Energize During National Family Caregivers Month

By Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D. & Julie L. Mayer, Psy.D.

On New Years Day and the 4th of July, we are advised to check the batteries in our smoke detectors to make sure they’re still working.  During National Family Caregivers Month--a celebration observed every November since 1993--family caregivers should check their own batteries to make sure they still have the energy to continue with their arduous work.

            Sponsored by the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), a leading national advocacy and education organization for the 50 million Americans who care for loved ones in the course of any year, National Family Caregivers Month has been a time for caregivers and their advocates to increase public awareness of the importance of family caregiving.  According to the NFCA, caregivers’ efforts on behalf of their loved ones would amount to a $305 billion value, if only caregivers were paid for the daily sacrifices they make.  NFCA encourages Americans in general to thank a family caregiver by sending a note of appreciation, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, or even providing a few hours of respite.  For the theme of this year’s National Family Caregivers Month—“Speak Up”—NFCA is offering a free teleclass on November 6 and 13 on how caregivers can communicate more effectively with healthcare professionals.  (For more information on signing up for the teleclass, please see the NFCA website—www.thefamilycaregiver.org.)

            National Family Caregivers Month is also a good time for caregivers and other family members to take a step back from the onrush of chores and medical appointments in order to assess if the current caregiving plan is working.  If it isn’t—that is, if either the care-recipient or caregiver is faring poorly—then it is probably time to make some changes for the year ahead by finding new sources of energy and support or renegotiating the division of duties.  How do you conduct such as assessment?  Here are three ways:

            1) The most important one is by looking hard in the mirror and asking yourself some questions. 

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