Because, by our own choosing, most go virtually unnoticed. We’re invisible to others. We hide in our cocoons.
…And now it appears that an entire month has been proclaimed just of us “ghosts.” It’s called National Family Caregiver Month. It’s this month – November.
Let’s compare this month’s recognition to the previous months. In October, everyone, including professional and college athletes, wore pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone wore pink. I did, as well. Pink was in – even for us men!
So now it’s November. It’s our month. What’s our color? What recognition activities are scheduled? What are people doing for National Family Caregiver Month? It’s hard to say, isn’t it? No – it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to say!
There are 65 million family caregivers in the United States alone. That equals 29% of the U.S. population, or two-and-a-half times the population of the entire state of Texas!
And yet, declaring a month for our “silent majority” will likely go virtually unnoticed.
Hopefully, in time, the event will draw attention to our ever-growing population. Perhaps programs will be created, awareness will be raised, and support will be provided.
Like anything, it takes time to build momentum. In this case, it will likely take a great deal of time.
That said, it’s never too soon to get started, is it?
So what can those who are not caregivers do to recognize this month?
Do something positive for a caregiver! Thank them – support them – provide books and literature to educate them. Did I mention thank them?
Here are some suggestions to those who wish to recognize those that give so much of themselves to their loved ones.
1. Call them or send emails to divert their attention from their tasks and, in some cases, isolated lives.
2. Thank them with a generous gift of candy, flowers, DVD’s, CD’s, concert tickets, or other form of recognition/entertainment. Thank you cards are always well received.
3. Put up the holiday decorations at their house. Make it festive for Thanksgiving, Chanukah or Christmas! If the caregiver doesn’t have holiday decorations, go buy some. Don’t ask to come over – just do it! Don’t take “no” for an answer. Make sure they know you’ll be back to take everything down once the new year arrives.
4. Invite the caregiver and their loved one over for Thanksgiving. If they are too ill to travel, go to their house with a pre-made meal. If they can’t accept guests, provide a meal and don’t stay. The one thing you shouldn’t do is avoid doing anything.
5. Come over and clean the house, especially as the holiday nears. Again, don’t take “no” for an answer. Just do it. If you can send the caregiver and care recipient to the movies or a restaurant while you clean the house, that is an added bonus.
Whatever you decide to do will be appreciated. The key is to not allow yourself to be talked out of it. Caregivers are quite good at doing so.
Caregivers are silent heroes for a reason. They don’t wish to bother others. Yes, we are self-made Martyrs. We suffer in silence.
If a national monthly recognition can help break that pattern, then my hat is off to our president for thinking of those of us who are too invisible to do so for ourselves.
Perhaps the proclamation to recognize caregivers is the first step in allowing us to recognize ourselves, as well.
Remember, your random act of kindness will be appreciated for a lifetime.
Want an example? See below – and thank you, Mr. President!
Presidential Proclamation — National Family Caregivers Month, 2012
NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH, 2012
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Our Nation’s health care professionals provide essential medical services to millions of Americans, yet they do not shoulder their responsibilities alone. Family members, friends, and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.
Across America, daughters and sons balance the work of caring for aging parents with the demands of their careers and raising their own children. Spouses and partners become caregivers to the ones they love even as they navigate their own health challenges. Mothers and fathers resume care for children returning home as wounded warriors. Friends and relatives form networks to support loved ones with disabilities. All of them give selflessly to bring comfort, social engagement, and stability to those they love.
Family caregivers have an immeasurable impact on the lives of those they assist, but their hours are long and their work is hard. Many put their own lives on hold to lift up someone close to them. That is why my Administration continues to support these committed individuals through programs like the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Lifespan Respite Care Program, and through new initiatives like the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. These efforts help caregivers access services, provide quality support, and reinforce their support through respite care options. Additionally, my Administration has pursued workplace flexibility initiatives that help caregivers balance their responsibilities to their employers with their responsibilities to their loved ones. I was also proud to sign the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which has helped our most seriously injured post-9/11 veterans and their family caregivers through financial support; access to health insurance, mental health services, and counseling; and comprehensive caregiver training and respite care.
National Family Caregivers Month is a time to reflect on the compassion and dedication that family caregivers embody every day. As we offer our appreciation and admiration for their difficult work, let us also extend our own offers of support to them and their loved ones.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2012 as National Family Caregivers Month. I encourage all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.