National Family Caregivers Month. Did you know that? Each November, family caregivers are recognized and honored throughout the country.
Caregiving can be a 24-hour-a-day and 7-days-a-week job. Providing care around the clock can sometimes diminish other important areas of life. I have met several military caregivers who are the round the clock care for their Veteran. I am inspired by their grit, determination, and love.
Caregivers can face many challenges. Some caregivers have devoted their time in full to their loved one(s). This means they may put their job, career, or plans on hold for the sake of being able to fully care for their loved one. Caregivers need our support. They need our compassion and listening ears.
Being a caregiver is about balance. For me, as a caregiver, this is one that I sometimes struggle with. Mornings can be the busiest time in our home. Kids are getting ready for school, breakfast and lunches need to be made, making sure Sam has what he needs for the day, and making sure that medicine is being administered. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle, I forget that I may need a lunch too, or that I need to eat breakfast as well.
Throughout the day, some caregivers spend about 70 percent of their time managing. I’ve mentioned at times that I am the keeper: I keep the schedules, the routine, the medicine schedule, the home/work/school schedule, and my planner is filled with reminders, important dates, doctors appointments, and such. As a caregiver, it is one of my responsibilities to make sure that Sam is equipped with all he needs for the day: medication, bag, Memphis (and his things), food, phone, keys, wallet. Yes, even having office keys and his wallet can be a reminder every day.
Did you know that some caregivers juggle work and caregiving? Six out of ten, according to the National PACE Association, work full or part-time in addition to the major responsibilities at home. For me, I work, and Sam works. However, that does not mean his job is stressful and trigger free. Oh no. Nope. Sam’s job is a daily trigger and stressor. There are panic attacks, anxiety, and memories that surround his job 5 days a week that he is working in the VA. Some caregivers have to cut back on their hours they work, some even quit their job entirely. This can put a financial strain on many families.
Mealtimes are important for those who are caregivers. This may mean the household follows a certain diet or keeps certain meals in the menu rotation. Nutrition is so important for everyone in the house. When I say that some caregivers forget to eat, I am saying that in all honesty. Caregivers need proper nutrition for stamina, strength, and energy in order to do their caregiving duties well. Sometimes we even need naps or self-care.
Self-Care for Caregivers is such a huge part of maintaining a healthy relationship with the one you care for (in my honest opinion). If a caregiver is lucky to attend a retreat, they can meet other caregivers and share their stories (also so important to know you are not alone). This time away is also a time for the caregiver to have some resources shared with them (yoga, deep breathing, things that can be shared with your loved one). Self-Care is not a one time deal, it is necessary to stay focused, recharged, and feel good about yourself, your family, and your loved one. Small tasks like mini-decluttering, mini-meditation, unplugging for an hour, deep breathing, walking, knitting, those can be great moments for the caregiver to unwind.
For me, I am about making a list and having a plan. While that does not always work, I am learning that it is okay to not always have a plan because depending on the situation, the environment, and the number of people, our plan can change. Sam tends to avoid large crowds, but with the help of Memphis, he can conquer things that were once challenging.
Communication is another big key for caregivers. Sometimes we (caregivers) just need to say “no.” While it is hard, sometimes it is because we just need a moment to breathe. We just need some time to ourselves. That is not a bad thing, but for some of us, it can make us feel really guilty. Again, balance is key. Understanding that I am not Wonder Woman has been hard. There are times I want to do it all…but, I know for the sake of my family (and myself), I cannot do all the things all the time.
Love on the caregivers that you know. Reach out to them and offer your time or coffee. Honor them year round, not just once a month, but recognize that caregivers are some amazing people who selflessly give of their time and energy to many people.
My fellow caregivers: I see you. I love and admire the things you do for your loved ones, your family, and your community. You inspire me, and you help me when I feel as if I am alone on this journey of being a military spouse. <3 Much love to you all.