Dr. Mary Ann Spanos
Director of Office for Aging Services
National Family Caregivers Month is celebrated each November and it is a time to recognize and honor family caregivers (also known as care partners) across the country. The Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services (like our counterparts across the state and nation) are charged with not only assisting older adults but also helping caregivers of any age. However, our biggest challenge is getting people to realize they are a caregiver. This month’s national caregiving theme is “Caregiving Happens” to reflect that most people do not sign up to be a caregiver, the reality is that caregiving just happens.
Caregiving happens when you’re grocery shopping or in a meeting. Caregiving happens when you’re trying to get out the door to go to work and it happens when you least expect it. The National Caregiver Action Network has started a campaign in honor of National caregiving month called #CaregivingHappens to raise awareness of your role as a family caregiver. #CaregivingHappens when you’re busy with something else or have other plans. It may make you miss meetings or other appointments. The people around you need to realize that you may be running late because you’re picking up your loved one from chemo or your friend needs to understand that you’re not avoiding them, you’re caring for your mom with Alzheimer’s. When #CaregivingHappens, it’s not always convenient or expected but there is a network of people who understand and are here to support you in your caregiving journey.
Caregiver Action Network (the National Family Caregivers Association) began promoting national recognition of family caregivers in 1994 to help elevate the importance of Caregivers needing support and how #CaregivingHappens. Visit their website at www.caregiveraction.org for resources and tools to support family caregivers. Local Caregivers can call our NY Connects helpline at 716-753-4582 to be connected to local programs and services that can assist you with caregiving. We also have trained Caregiver Support Staff who can meet with you to discuss options and provide training, support, and respite when you need a break. In addition, we have specific services for people caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Caregiving is not easy. What starts out as occasional help for a friend or family member can turn into a daily commitment. Most caregivers have young children and/or are working full time making life more difficult. That is why Office for Aging Services works with many community partners to provide respite care, in home care aids, Adult Day programs, emergency response services, safety items, training/support groups and on-line resources for busy caregivers. We want to help busy caregivers get connected to the services but also keep you healthy and strong so you can continue caregiving.
Over the holidays as you see older family members and friends you have not seen in a while, look for signs that they may be starting to need help. The best thing you can do for them is start with a conversation and start planning. Make sure you know their wishes and encourage them to have legal papers in place like healthcare proxy and powers of attorney. Make sure everyone in the family knows where these important papers are so they can be accessed when needed. Do some research on in home care options to help with tasks like housekeeping, grocery shopping or bathing. Locally you can NY Connects (716-753-4582) is the place to call for everything on community based care options and supports for caregviers. If your loved one lives in another state, you can research similar services on the Eldercare Locator website at www.eldercare.acl.gov by inserting their zip code or call 1-800-677-1116 to speak with a resource specialist.
The key to caregiving is to remember to take care of yourself so that you can continue to take care of the one’s you love. Thank you to all the caregivers for all you do every day to help older adults live their best life. For more information on anything in this article and to be connected to Caregiver Services contact NY Connects at 716-753-4582. Stay well.