Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guest editorial: Family caregivers need care, too

National Family Caregivers Month, observed every November, is a nationally recognized month that seeks to draw attention to the many challenges facing family caregivers, advocate for stronger public policy to address family caregiving issues, and raise awareness about community programs that support family caregivers. It is a time to thank, support, educate and advocate for the more than 50 million family caregivers across the country.

During National Family Caregivers Month and every day, National Family Caregiver Support Program encourages family caregivers to take four steps every day to empower family caregivers to act on behalf of themselves and their loved ones, and to remove barriers to health and well-being: Believe in yourself, protect your health, reach out for help and speak up for your rights.

Think of a family caregiver you know and celebrate next month by reaching out and offering them a helping hand. Bring them dinner, offer transportation — do something to help.

National Family Caregiver Support Program will be celebrating family caregivers with our annual Caregiver Appreciation Day, Nov. 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center. We will have various health and human service agencies available for information, referrals and workshops. Stop by and enjoy some refreshments, and maybe win a door prize.

There are many more ways to celebrate family caregivers, take action and communicate the important messages of National Family Caregivers Month. Here are the top 10 ways to celebrate the month:
  • Offer a few hours of respite time to a family caregiver so they spend time with friends, or simply relax.
  • Send a card of appreciation or a bouquet of flowers to brighten up a family caregiver’s day.
  • Encourage local businesses to offer a free service for family caregivers through the month of November.
  • Participate in the National Family Caregivers Association’s free national teleclass to learn how to communicate more effectively with health care professionals. The two free one-hour sessions will be Nov. 6 and 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. For more information, visit
  • Help a family caregiver decorate their home for the holidays or offer to address envelopes for their holiday cards.
  • Offer comic relief. Purchase tickets to a local comedic play, give a family caregiver your favorite funny movie to view or provide them with a book on tape.
  • Find 12 different family photos and have a copy center create a monthly calendar that the family caregiver can use to keep track of appointments and events.
  • Offer to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for a caregiver family in your community, so they can just relax and enjoy the holiday.
  • Take a few minutes to write a letter encouraging your mayor, borough executive or governor to issue a local proclamation establishing November as National Family Caregivers Month.
  • Help a family caregiver find information and resources on the Internet or to locate a local peer support meeting.

One place to start is by contacting National Family Caregiver Support Program. We hold monthly peer support meetings and caregiver trainings, as well as provide information and assistance in gaining access to needed services. We provide respite on a limited basis, and all of our services are free of charge. The only requirement is that a caregiver is helping take care of someone 60 or older with cognitive disabilities or frail health, or they are helping take care of someone aged 59 and younger with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder. There are no income restrictions. Just give us a call at 262-1280 or stop by our office in the Blazy Mall, 44539 Sterling Highway, Suite 209.

And don’t forget to mark your calendar to attend National Family Caregiver Appreciation Day and learn more about the many family caregiver services available in our community.

Dani Kebschull is the program coordinator of the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

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