National Family Caregivers Month is observed each year in November. The main goal is to shine a spotlight on the vital role that caregivers play in the lives of their loved ones. No one is better-positioned to provide comfort and support, advocate on behalf of a patient and ensure continuity of care. In November, everyone is encouraged to recognize, thank and empower the caregivers in their lives, and to remind them that in order to provide the best possible care to others, they must first take care of themselves.
While caregiving is undeniably rewarding, it also can be draining, both physically and emotionally, and a caregiver must not lose sight of his or her own health and well-being. This is essential for both the caregiver and his or her loved one. Toward that end, here are some important aspects of caregiving to consider:
- Caregiving can be a stressful experience – Providing care for a loved one can be somewhat of a juggling act, from managing medications and scheduling physician appointments to planning meals and providing emotional support. In the heat of the moment, caregivers often put themselves last, and their own needs land at the bottom of an ever-growing to-do list.
- The emotional and physical stress of caregiving can be significant – Left unchecked, this stress can take a toll on a caregiver’s own health, state of mind, relationships and almost every other aspect of his or her life. This can sometimes lead to anxiety, depression and even burnout, causing both the caregiver and the person he or she is caring for to suffer.
- Good nutrition promotes good health – While managing the myriad responsibilities of caregiving, it can be difficult to eat right (and sometimes even to eat at all). However, proper nutrition is essential to building energy, strength and stamina, as well as supporting the body’s immune system to help it fight off infections. Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most powerful things that caregivers can do to take better care of both themselves and their loved ones.
- Rest is essential to peak performance and health – Many people think of sleep as a luxury, but the costs of not getting enough (most people need 7-9 uninterrupted hours each night) can be high. Taking time to rejuvenate and re-energize is vital for caregivers to be as effective as possible.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we are proud to recognize and celebrate our patients’ caregivers. In recognition of their vital role, we encourage everyone to join us in supporting them by performing simple acts of kindness whenever possible. Even though they may not show it, caregivers can feel overwhelmed at times. Something as simple as sending a card of appreciation, buying lunch or a cup of coffee, helping with holiday decorations or offering to walk a dog can become a memorable moment that encourages a caregiver to smile and relax, and ultimately regain energy, optimism and hope.
If you’d like information about the calendar of events sponsored by Moffitt for our patients and their caregivers, call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete a new patient registration form online. Our experts have put together some healthy ideas and tips designed to sustain the important mission of caregivers.