Greetings one and all…

This morning I am particularly thankful to be HOME enjoying a lazy Sunday morning. As always, the fall season has been incredibly busy with conferences and other speaking engagements. Please know I am NOT complaining! I am blessed with abundance. However, a little break in the action is welcome—time to relax, recharge, and reflect. Today, I am remembering the family caregivers I met over the past several weeks. Listening to their heart-warming as well as heart-breaking stories, I am reminded of the “why” of my work—I LOVE caregivers!

As you probably know, November is a time to honor family caregivers—National Family Caregivers Month. Granted, family caregivers are worthy of recognition and honor throughout the year. But it’s nice to have a designated month in the year during which we are encouraged to pay tribute to family caregivers.

As I reflect on my many conversations with caregivers recently, I am humbled. Those caring for loved ones challenged by Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or ALS shared a bit of their stories with me. Some had been in the trenches of caregiving for years. Others were just starting the journey following a life-changing diagnosis. Some had recently completed the journey and are now grieving the loss of a loved one as well as a somewhat surprising loss of purpose. Regardless of the specifics of the caregiving journey, the caregivers I encountered exhibited a similar essence—caring, compassionate, courageous, selfless, resourceful, committed, and determined. An amazing array of people worthy of our recognition, honor, AND support.

It’s important to realize that caregiving is an imperfect process. The caregivers I met were NOT flawless. They readily admitted mistakes, mishaps, and misgivings related to their experience as a caregiver. Having served as a family caregiver numerous times, I know that being called to care for a family member or friend is a high calling indeed. It is a journey that often requires everything we have to give—and then some! Caregivers are challenged physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychosocially, and financially. Consequently, there are days when every caregiver feels anything BUT caring. Instead, caregivers feel overwhelmed by fatigue, anger, fear, frustration, sorrow, and despair. And yet, they continue to show up and to companion those requiring care.

It’s because of our imperfection as caregivers that I think we should intentionally celebrate and support family caregivers throughout November (and beyond!). Identify a caregiver in your family, neighborhood, office, or faith community that needs a kind word from time to time. Send a daily text every morning expressing your concern and support to break the isolation felt by so many caregivers. Or when you are at the grocery store, call your neighbor who is caring for his wife who has dementia to see if he needs a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. Perhaps you could offer to walk your friend’s dog every morning since she is now preoccupied with the care of her ailing mother. Look around! There are countless opportunities to express your appreciation for caregivers! Don’t be shy. Reach out and honor, support, and celebrate family caregivers! Please join me in saying, “I LOVE Caregivers” throughout November…and December…and January…

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, enjoy the moment…Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

 

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