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November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize the millions of people who care for the sick, disabled, and the elderly in the United States.
Of course, it’s a month when the American Liver Foundation reminds caregivers of patients with liver disease that there are things they can do to make their lives more manageable and less stressful.
We also direct caregivers to an online guide, which they can reference throughout the year.
This year’s theme is “Family Caregivers—Now More Than Ever.” The theme is a reaffirmation that more and more Americans are finding themselves in the role of caregiver.
Patients of all ages—whether in short-term or long-term care—rely on family assistance to supplement healthcare intervention by doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses.
According to the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), the nation’s leading family caregiver organization, as many as 65 million Americans currently care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age.
CAN (formerly the National Family Caregivers Association) is the nonprofit organization that initiated this annual honor by creating National Family Caregivers Week in 1994.
In 1997, President Clinton signed the first official proclamation, and every president since has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation celebrating family caregivers.
Eventually, National Family Caregivers Week became National Family Caregivers Month.
In his 2013 proclamation, President Barack Obama, stated: “During National Family Caregivers Month, we thank these tireless heroes for the long, challenging work they perform behind closed doors and without fanfare every day, and we recommit to ensuring the well-being of their loved ones and of the caregivers themselves.”
Kathy Greenlee, the administrator of the Administration for Community Living, which is managed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in her message: “At no other time in our history has the number of caregivers been greater. And as the baby-boom generation continues to age, this trend will continue to make understanding and supporting the needs of family caregivers even more important.”
Ms. Greenlee, who also serves as the United States Assistant Secretary for Aging, said that family caregivers have to “juggle multiple commitments, including jobs and relationships with other family members, while at the same time going to extraordinary lengths to provide care to a family member or loved one.”
Making a very important point, Ms. Greenlee noted: “We know caregivers often sacrifice their own physical, financial, and emotional well-being.”
And she concluded by saying, “This November, I encourage you to reach out to family caregivers you know and thank them for all they do on behalf of their loved ones every day. Let them know that, more than ever, what they do matters and is appreciated.”
The American Liver Foundation has created a Family Caregivers resource page on its website at http://www.liverfoundation.org/patients/caregivers.
On the website, we explain that people with liver disease may need more than physical assistance. Family members and friends are also often called upon to provide patients of liver disease with emotional and spiritual assistance.
We suggest on the Caregivers’ web page that individuals who provide care to patients often don’t even realize they are caregivers. If you want to establish whether you are, indeed, a caregiver in every sense of the word, our website offers a four-step checklist.
If you often do any of the following for a person with liver disease, you are a caregiver:
• Help with household activities such as grocery shopping, preparing meals, cleaning, lawn care, or bill paying
• Assist in personal care activities such as bathing, eating, or toileting
• Provide transportation to doctor’s appointments
• Offer advice on medical decisions
The same page on our website offers helpful hints for caregivers. They include the following nuggets of advice:
• The Family and Medical Leave Act requires most employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for family members.
• Decide which needs you can meet and which can be handled by other people. Ask friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers for help.
• Talk to other caregivers who will understand how you feel and may share how they manage similar situations. Talk with family members, friends, or religious leaders who will be supportive.
• Take some time for you, even if it’s just a few minutes. Have coffee or dinner with friends or family, read a book, exercise, or do something you really enjoy.
• Create a back-up team and train them.
• Call the American Liver Foundation HelpLine 800-GO-LIVER (800-465-4837) with questions or just to talk and get support.
See all the hints now.
Are you caring for a loved one with The American Liver Foundation offers a support guide if you are caring for a loved one with hepatic encephalopathy (HE)? Check out our HE Caregivers guide. (PDF)