Honoring Caregivers: November is Caregiver’s Awareness Month
During November, Gray Matters Alliance honors caregivers. November is Caregivers
Awareness Month, which highlights the dedication and selflessness of individuals who take
on this role. The month also shines a light on the invisible work of caregivers, helping
others understand the emotional and physical impact of this 24/7 job.
The work never ends for caregivers who manage the daily needs of a child, spouse, parent,
or friend. Caregivers assist with self-care, manage medication and healthcare needs,
provide transportation, and offer constant support and companionship. More than
three-quarters of caregivers are women.
Sobering Caregiver Statistics
Approximately 48 million people in the U.S. serve as unpaid caregivers, but this number is
likely much higher as it only accounts for the care of adults. For many individuals, caring for
a loved one transforms into a full-time job. Caregivers often step into this role voluntarily,
but for some, the role was never a choice because these individuals often feel that
providing care is their responsibility.
Caregivers are mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, friends, and grandchildren. Mothers
often take on the role of caregiver for a child with a life-threatening illness, an intellectual
or developmental disability, or a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Children step into the role of
caregiver for an elderly parent. A spouse often chooses to care for their husband or wife.
The demand on caregivers can be overwhelming. According to statistics from the Centers
for Disease Control, more than 36 percent of surveyed caregivers noted that they lacked an
adequate amount of sleep each night. Many caregivers also reported 14 or more days over
a month period where they felt their mental health was an issue (depression, anxiety, etc.).
A study that analyzed the self-care habits of caregivers of patients with poor prognosis
cancer found that “Nearly a quarter (23%) reported high depression and 34% reported
borderline or high anxiety.” Mental health struggles were more pronounced among
caregivers who neglected self-care.
Yet, many full-time caregivers might feel they struggle alone and in silence. They could lack
time to care for their needs because they do not have access to a support system.
Open Your Eyes to The Invisible Labor of Caregivers
Caregivers perform invisible labor. This term denotes unpaid and mostly unacknowledged
labor; the work can be emotional or physical. Every caregiver performs a variety of duties
and offers care in numerous capacities.
Mothers caring for young children with a disability, TBI, or life-threatening illness must
track medication needs, manage healthcare visits, provide comfort and support, mediate
and advocate for their child’s education, and perhaps even support their child physically,
helping them walk, eat, and brush their teeth. These care tasks are often in addition to
household responsibilities like laundry, cooking, and cleaning.
Adult children who care for an aging or ill parent also juggle multiple responsibilities. They,
too, must manage medication needs, provide transportation to doctor appointments, and
support their parents to help them with daily tasks. Adults with dementia might need
Caregivers perform these tasks daily, but few understand how much mental and physical
demand this places on the individual. As many of these tasks are overlooked or seen as
something the caregiver should provide, the care and the support often remain without
acknowledgment or appreciation. This is how a caregiver begins to feel invisible and how
mental health can begin to falter.
How to Support Caregivers
Celebrate Caregiver Awareness Month by seeing and opening your eyes to the invisible
labor and emotional strength caregivers deliver. Offer to help a caregiver by finding out
what they need.
Caregivers can resist help. For many, providing daily care is what they know. Accepting help
can wage an internal struggle; they might know they need a break, but they feel guilty for
accepting the help. Try to offer compassion and help in any way possible. Start a meal
service for a friend who is a caregiver. Church families could offer support in other ways.
It’s okay to ask how to help. It is also okay to provide three options to let the caregiver know
that help is coming one way or another. Say: “I would like to start a meal delivery for you,
arrange for a nurse to provide help one day a week, or arrange for a cleaning service to
take care of the home. Which of these options would you prefer?”
Resources for Easing Caregiver Struggles and Facilitating Independence
Some caregivers might have difficulty not providing constant care. However, there are
many resources available that can alleviate some of their daily tasks and help their loved
ones gain independence. Gray Matters Alliances wants to help caregivers explore how assistive technology and DME can help ease daily care and facilitate independence for both
the caregiver and the patient.
Explore the catalog of products available through Gray Matters Alliance. Find automatic
medication dispensers that know the correct dose and time for each medication, feeding
tools that simplify meal times, and wheelchairs that provide mobility assistance.
Contact Gray Matters Alliance today to speak to a team member and learn more about the
best products and services to help with daily care, aid mobility, and foster independence.
Gray Matters Alliance also can help caregivers find support groups and other resources
Gray Matters Alliance (GMA) is committed to improving the lives of aging seniors and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through independent living technology, remote support tools, and educational resources. We collaborate closely with families and organizations to enable independent and secure living in preferred environments.