Caregiver Recognition

National Caregiver Month

May is National Caregiver Month in Canada, the first Tuesday of April is National Caregivers Day, and November is National Family Caregiver Month in the US. Whether we celebrate and recognize caregivers in April, May or November, the important piece is that we do recognize them, appreciate them, support and acknowledge all that they do for their care recipients any time of the year. In Canada there are over 8 million caregivers and in the United States there are in excess of 53 million people providing care for a family member or friend.

Who are these Caregivers?

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) describes caregivers as “family members or friends who typically provide unpaid, long-term, community-based care and assistance to older adults and people with chronic health conditions or disabilities.” 

Caregiving can take the form of many tasks, including assisting with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), shopping, picking up groceries, or medications or managing medications, etc.  Often a spouse or family member subtly steps into a caregiving role simply by doing what any dutiful spouse, daughter or son does.  Mom may need help with her shopping or going to the doctor or even paying her bills and before you know it, you are a ‘caregiver’ and what you’re doing to help your loved one is impacting your life as well as theirs.   It may be impacting you physically, emotionally, financially, and even spiritually as their needs advance to the foreground and yours slip towards the background.  This is why it is so important to be aware of when you become a caregiver so you can incorporate your needs into the equation and not lose sight of who you are in the caregiving experience.

When you recognize you are in a caregiving role, it helps to call yourself a caregiver.  The title ‘caregiver’ can unlock resources for you.  In this short video Caregiver Stress Video Series (2) – Do You Call Yourself “Caregiver”? I speak more about how calling oneself ‘caregiver’ is the key to unlocking caregiver resources.

Do You Call Yourself a Caregiver?

Toni Gitles, who was a caregiver for her mother for 14 years, and a guest on the Island Treasures podcast episode “And Then I Danced” spoke about how beneficial it is to call yourself a caregiver. Toni says,

“as far as the word caregiver, I didn’t even like identify when I started – I was mom’s daughter, taking care of my loving mom. And so I didn’t even think to investigate resources for caregivers, you know…and to identify yourself gives you access, it makes you curious, it makes you see what’s out there and to learn from other people.”

Toni Gitles

Facts from the CDC on Caregivers

The CDC cites that:  

Caregivers Learn as They Go

This point is generally the case for caregivers when they are embarking on a caregiving journey.  Toni Gitles also said in the podcast that

“nobody told me this would be a life changing journey – nobody told me a lot – nobody told me anything about caregiving… the books I read at the time… the books weren’t helpful, the information wasn’t helpful; but at the beginning of the journey, you know, nothing is familiar or makes a lot of sense to you…”

Toni Gitles

Through her journey Toni found she had amazing strength and advocacy and went on to become a caregiver consultant to help equip and prepare others for their caregiving journeys.

In addition to the numbers provided by the CDC, Canada’s Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities, Kamal Khera points out that half of Canadians will be caregivers at some point in their lives! Listen to what she has to say in this brief video.

This is why a National Caregiver Month is so important.  During these months we are raising awareness not only about what caregivers do and need; but how we need to prepare for the possibility that we will be called upon to be caregivers. In my blog post from March 29, 2024 called “Preparing for Transitions” I spoke more about preparing to care.

Based on how many of us at some point will be caregivers, wouldn’t it make sense to include a course on caregiving in our public schools?

Graduation scroll being offered

We all are required by law to attend school; and most of us graduate from high school. So, wouldn’t teaching students about caregiving be a perfect opportunity for them to gain a basic understanding of what caregiving is, and by the time they graduate they won’t be caught off guard when they find themselves in the 50% that will be caregivers?  We often hear folks say that they’ll never use algebra or trigonometry after they leave school – but a course in caregiving may at least be beneficial to 50% of the students. 

Caregiver appreciation month is a time to recognize caregivers; but for those who are fully entrenched in a caregiving journey, I believe they would appreciate being recognized daily. If you know a family caregiver, please reach out to them today and offer some assistance.  Bring a meal, send a note, offer to sit with their loved one, pick up groceries, or mow their lawn just to lighten their load. Any of these actions serves as a tangible acknowledgement of all they are doing for their loved one and reminds them they are not alone.

  1. (Caregivers: A Snapshot, November 22, 2021) ↩︎
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