Supporting Those Who Support Others During National Family Caregivers Month

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Being a family caregiver is often an around-the-clock job. Whether they’re caring for clients, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, or other family members, a family caregiver often wears many hats, ensuring their clients or loved ones receive the best care they can provide.

However, family caregivers may sometimes sacrifice their own needs and mental health care in order to care for others. Family members may balance jobs, schoolwork, and other obligations in addition to their caregiving responsibilities, leaving them little time to care for themselves. Professional family caregivers may take on significant emotional labor, potentially leading to burnout.

During National Family Caregivers Month, which is observed every year in November, communities aim to recognize family caregivers for their efforts, lifting them up and supporting their well-being. This annual observance can be an opportunity to lend a helping hand to the family caregivers in your life, ensuring they receive the same care they offer to others. One way for family caregivers to seek support may be to work with a licensed mental health professional through an online therapy platform.

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What is National Family Caregivers Month?

National Family Caregivers Month, sometimes abbreviated as NFCM, has been observed each November since 1997, when it was established by Caregiver Action Network and proclaimed by President Clinton. 

Caregiver Action Network is an organization dedicated to supporting caregivers through education, resources, and advocacy. Throughout the month of November, Caregiver Action Network creates materials to raise awareness, educate communities, and empower caregivers in their responsibilities. Starting in 2008, Caregiver Action Network began establishing themes for each year, such as “Speak Up for Your Rights” and “#BeCareCurious”. A theme has not yet been established for 2024.

In 2023, President Biden issued another Presidential Proclamation dedicating November 2023 as National Family Caregivers Month. In the proclamation, the President stated, “During National Family Caregivers Month, we honor the Americans who lift up our communities and our Nation by providing dignified, professional, and invaluable care to the people we cherish the most.”

Responsibilities of a family caregiver

Family caregiving typically requires the caregiver to assume many different responsibilities. In order to care for their family members or clients and allow older adults to continue living in their own homes, they may serve as the primary source of support in all areas of their lives.

Some responsibilities of family caregivers might include the following:

  • Transportation: Driving or arranging transportation for family members or clients to attend appointments, activities, and other obligations
  • Cooking: Planning, preparing, and serving meals, often catering to the individual’s nutritional needs and preferences
  • Household duties: Keeping the house clean and organized, including household chores, lawn care, and paying bills, among other responsibilities
  • Healthcare: Supporting individuals with certain medical needs or medications, sometimes in addition to or in lieu of an in-house healthcare specialist
  • Safety: Keeping loved ones or clients safe from harm, especially if they lack the mental capacity to do so themselves
  • Coordination: Scheduling appointments, finding the right providers, keeping medical records organized, and coordinating other essential care
  • Advocation: Acting as an advocate for loved ones or clients, ensuring their needs are met and their voices are heard
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Challenges of being a family caregiver

Although being a family caregiver can be fulfilling and rewarding in many ways, caregivers may also experience challenges in their work.

Some challenges of being a family caregiver might include those listed below:

  • Complex healthcare tasks: Whether or not a caregiver has a medical background, some healthcare tasks or responsibilities may require additional skills and training.
  • Specific needs: Limited mobility and other challenges might require heavy dependence on a caregiver.
  • Balancing other obligations: For many caregivers, especially family members, caregiving is not their full-time job. They may work additional jobs, go to school, or have other responsibilities that require their attention.
  • Money: Medicaid or other resources may compensate family members for their caregiving work, but many may still experience financial hardship without the ability to take on additional jobs.
  • Emotional labor: For both family members and professional caregivers, being a family caregiver can require significant emotional labor, potentially leading to mental health challenges.
  • Mental health: In many cases, family caregivers sacrifice their own mental health to care for others.

Ways to support the family caregivers in your life

If you have a family caregiver in your life, National Family Caregivers Month can be an opportunity for you to increase support for them and help them prioritize their own health.

Here are some ways you can support the family caregivers in your life.

Send a card, gift, or care package

Sometimes, even a simple gesture can speak volumes about your support and appreciation for the work that family caregivers do. You might write a heartfelt card, send a thoughtful gift, or put together a care package to let them know you’re thinking about them and brighten their day.

Treat them to a self-care day

The caregivers in your life may become so focused on ensuring everyone else is cared for that they forget to take care of themselves. A self-care day could be anything from a cozy night in together to taking them out for a massage to doing what you can to give them a day (or even a few hours) off.

Cook them a meal

After spending the day cooking and caring for others, it may be difficult for family caregivers to muster up the energy to cook themselves a delicious meal. By cooking them a homemade meal, they can enjoy it after a long day without the additional labor, giving them one less thing about which to worry. You might also consider buying them takeout or delivery from their favorite restaurant.

Offer help where possible

If you know the family or are a part of the organization for which they work, you may be able to assist with their caregiving duties as a way to show your support during National Family Caregivers Month. If you’re unable to help with those responsibilities, you could also help them with chores, grocery shopping, or other household tasks that will make their busy lives a bit easier.

Learn about the work they do

Educating yourself and others on caregiving issues and local resources can raise awareness for the concerns that matter most to family caregivers. You may learn something about the work that family caregivers do, and your support may inspire others to do their own research on family caregiving and discover how they can support those in their lives and communities.

Advocate on their behalf

In addition to learning more about the work that family caregivers do, it can be beneficial to speak out on the issues caregivers face. Spreading the word about these issues and National Family Caregivers Month – using the annual observance hashtag #NationalFamilyCaregiversMonth – can drive global awareness, potentially paving the way for more resources and better support for caregivers everywhere.

Listen to them

Sometimes, the family caregivers in your life may just need someone to listen to them. You might try to lend your support through active listening or simply by being there for them when they need to relax, have fun, or blow off some steam.

Caring for your own mental health as a family caregiver

If you’re a family caregiver yourself, you may experience a variety of challenges in your day-to-day life. As a result, you may find yourself experiencing burnout, exhaustion, stress, depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges.

No matter your role in your clients’ or loved ones’ lives, it can be difficult to provide them with the best possible care when you’re struggling with your own mental health. Taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and practicing self-care can help you be the best possible provider for your loved ones.

Another way you can support your mental health is through therapy. A therapist can help you better understand your emotions, manage mental health challenges, and develop strategies to help you overcome them both on and off the job.

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Are you a family caregiver in need of support?

Because caring for loved ones is often a round-the-clock job, caregivers might have difficulty finding time to attend traditional in-person therapy appointments. Additionally, in some cases, it could be dangerous to leave your client or loved one by themselves while you commute to and attend appointments. Online therapy can be a helpful alternative to in-person sessions, giving caregivers the ability to meet with a licensed therapist from anywhere with an internet connection, including from their own home or a loved one’s home.

Research has shown that online therapy can be an effective treatment method for caregivers in need of mental health support. One study evaluated the effects of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) for caregivers, finding that the treatment was often successful in “reducing caregiver burden, anxiety, depression, stress, and improving quality of life.”

Takeaway

National Family Caregivers Month is observed each year in November. This month can be an opportunity to recognize the work caregivers do on a daily basis, show appreciation for their efforts, and support them in any way we can. Some ways you can support caregivers during National Family Caregivers Month and beyond can include sending a card or gift, cooking them a meal, offering to help with their work, and learning about and advocating for caregiver resources. If you’re a caregiver in need of support, online therapy can be a helpful way to receive mental health treatment without worrying about finding time to commute to appointments or leaving your loved ones alone.

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