National Family Caregivers Month + the Holidays

The holidays are not just a time for feasting together, catching up on family news and watching the Lions and the Cowboys. The holidays are a time for togetherness, encouragement and supporting each other. One way that you can support your family members this holiday season is to assess the needs of your family members and determine whether a family member needs additional care.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time that we reflect on the physical, mental and emotional health of our family members and loved ones. Currently, there are 90 million caregivers in the United States who provide full-time or part-time care for someone else. Caregiving duties can include preparing a care plan, monitoring medication, housekeeping, providing transportation, and being a companion.

Finding a quality gastroenterologist (GI) for a colonoscopy can be an overwhelming task for an older loved one, but your offer of support can make all the difference. Your loved one may need assistance in researching GI doctors, making final selections, attending consultations and asking qualifying questions like, “What is your adenoma detection rate (ADR)?” On the day of the colonoscopy, your loved one will also need a ride to and from the facility, which requires a reliable caregiver.

There is no doubt that caregiving has its rewards. Everyone likes to be needed and appreciated, but caregiving can be physically and emotionally taxing. Meeting the needs of others can mean that you neglect your own wellness. This year’s theme of National Family Caregivers Month by the Caregiver Action Network is “Take Care to Give Care.” The very first rule of taking care of others is take care of yourself first.

If you are a caregiver in your family, please “take care to give care” at the holidays this year. Here are some tips to help you make wise decisions for yourself and your loved ones:

  • Use holiday gatherings to hold family meetings. Getting all the family together is a rare occasion, so use this time to discuss family health history and upcoming screenings. The meal table could be an appropriate time to assign family caregiver duties and coordinate calendars. This could reduce stress by saving you hours of phone calls later on.
  • When you schedule health screenings and appointments for your loved ones, schedule yours as well. With all the demands of your loved one’s doctor appointments, don’t neglect your own health. Take the time to schedule well visits with your primary care physician and preventative screenings like colonoscopies. You could even schedule your appointments back-to-back with those of your loved one! Your health is just as important, and you need those well visits and screenings so you can give the best care to others.
  • Have back-up. Every now and then, you will get sick too. Having supplemental support will allow you the much-needed time off and rest that you require to recover from illness and recharge your battery. Ask a fellow family member, neighbor or spouse to be your stand-in if you need time off for errands, vacation or a sick day.
  • Take care of your emotional health. Caregivers are twice as likely to become depressed and are at risk for other chronic conditions. Taking care of others can be isolating and lonely. Be aware of the symptoms of depression and make an appointment with your doctor if you notice changes in your mood or behavior. Stress can also make you more susceptible to conditions like hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

“Take Care to Give Care” this November. Remember: caring for yourself is the most loving thing you can do for yourself—and your loved one!