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  November is Family Caregiver Month

By Laydell Wood Harper
tellusdetroit.com

November is Family Caregiver Month, created to draw attention and appreciation to family members that are sacrificing every day to care for a loved one. It’s not an easy job, but it’s a rewarding job. At some point each and every one of us will take on the role of Caregiver; whether it be a caregiver for your mother, father, sibling or a friend or neighbor someone in your life will need your help.

It wasn’t until former President Barack Obama proclaimed November “National Caregivers Awareness Month,” in 2012 that prior to that all of this important work was going unnoticed. This is a time to honor those who are providing caregiving for those who are incapacitated and suffering from a debilitating or terminal illness that renders them unable to take care of themselves.

Celebrated every November, National Family Caregivers Month (NFCM) is a time to recognize and honor family caregivers across the country. This important day offers an opportunity to raise awareness of caregiving issues, educate communities, and increase support for caregivers. But it also offers an opportunity to learn and grow as a caregiver. And of course, there is a lot to learn. Here are just a few tips to make caregiving for a loved one just a little easier; Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors, Get support from other caregivers, accept offers to help and be specific as to how they can help, organize medical information so that its up to date and readily available, and by all means make sure legal documents are in order, you never know when you’ll need them.

Many of us are in uncharted water when it comes to caregiving so any advice or suggestion would be helpful. The Southeast Michigan Association to Transform Care (SEMATAC) was formed in 2014 at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church for just that reason; to impact primary concerns of African Americans faced with serious illness, treatment options, and in some cases total disregard for their human dignity. There are so many misconceptions.

At a recent caregiver event sponsored by SEMATAC. after each caregiver came up to tell their personal caregiver story, Edith Clifton, SEMATAC Chair commented, “This event was eye opening for us because we discovered that a large number of caregivers are men. The misconception is caregivers are mostly women.”

Long time patient advocate, SEMATA founding member and C-TAC (Coalition to Transform Advanced Care) Board member Shirley D. Roberson who sadly passed away in January 2022 was a living example of how important it is to know how to communicate effectively with Doctors. She worked tirelessly to improve patient care by sharing her “blue chair” story.”

Ms. Roberson was a dedicated patient advocate and artist with firsthand knowledge of the challenges that come with navigating a serious illness. Ms. Roberson, who was courageously living with stage four breast cancer, shared an example of her experience in the “Blue Chair” story, during a keynote session at the 2018 C-TAC Summit in Denver. When faced with a doctor who was not listening to her concerns, she instructed him to sit down in a nearby blue chair so that she could clearly express her concerns while the doctor finally listened.

Roberson told her “Blue Chair” story time and time again until “The Blue Chair” became the centerpiece for the annual national C-TAC conference in Washington D.C attended by C-TAC members from across the United States. This year SEMATAC presented the first “Blue Chair” Award to four outstanding caregivers from local Detroit churches. This will be an annual event.

The group originated in the church because more and more family members are turning to the church for mental and spiritual healing. Last year the SEMATAC group gave Caregivers an opportunity to tell their own Caregiver story.

Caregiving can be both tough and demanding. According to Caregiving in the US 2020, a report published by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, the average duration of caregiving is 4.5 years. Much longer than many family members anticipate when they take on this role.

Here are a few suggestions to give a caregiver during Family Caregivers month or anytime: offer a few hours of respite time to a family caregiver so they can spend time with friends, or simply relax. Or send a card of appreciation or a bouquet of flowers to brighten a family caregiver's day.


 

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