Today marks the beginning of National Caregivers Month. A month focusing on the work caregivers provide in our society, so the rest of us don't have to. It might sound harsh, but in the medical realm that's who we are.
Caregivers give love, attention, and comfort to the sick and disabled freeing up skilled medical personnel to care for others. In 2009 AARP reported, “More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.” You'd think with that amount of clout, more would be done to support us other than naming a period of time after us. However well intentioned, it's surreal to me to learn about community activities to commemorate caregiving that, quite frankly, we can't leave the house to attend.
65 million people day in and day out give all they've got to give to our elderly parents and disabled relatives because in our heart of hearts we know it's the right thing to do. We know our loved ones need help to wrestle with the bureaucracy that's the fabric of our medical system to secure help.
To keep their bodies clean, nourished, hydrated, and warm, caregivers use their energy to be their loved ones advocates. We are their voice, their defender, the ticket to what happens to them once the body weakens or breaks down. While we do not meet the clinical definition of a “skilled” worker to change bandages, give shots, etc., we are all that and more.
Caregivers shift themselves on a dime – we possess a gentle temperment to reassure our patients, we accept our role as part of a broader medical team, and when that team becomes disfunctional, caregivers have to become warriors (we are naturally worriers) to go out there and fight for the services our charges so desperately need. There are no local advocates for the caregivers. No one who will stand up with any clout and say, “LISTEN TO THE PERSON WHO CARES FOR THIS INDIVIDUAL!” (All caps=screaming intentional.) We slug it out on our own.
So, if you know a caregiver, please thank them. If you are are a caregiver, dear brother or sister I say, “Thank you. You are one of us and our jobs are replete with blessings and tears. As you take care of others, please take care of yourselves. You ARE skilled in undefinable ways.”
And it takes more than a month to do what we do.