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Caregiver Awareness Month

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Spectrum Health recognizes caregiveers
Posted at 10:16 AM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 10:16:11-05

November is Caregiver Awareness Month. These are the people that take care of loved ones in times of need or serious illness. However, caregivers tend to put their own health last, resulting in negative repercussions in their own mental and physical health.

Dr. Allison Ilem, PhD, BCBA, and Geriatric Psychologist at Spectrum Health & LifeCircles PACE explains the important work caregivers do, and resources they can use to help fulfill their needs.

A caregiver is a person who tends to the needs/concerns of a person with short- or long-term limitations due to illness, injury or disability.
This might be someone in your family of origin or family of choice (people closest to you – members of congregation, neighbors). To put it simply, a caregiver is a person who does what needs to be done when someone needs help.

However, caregivers tend to put their own needs last. As a result, there's more social impact (isolation), health trouble, and greater mortality (earlier death). Caring for yourself is a gift to your loved one too, this is especially true for caregivers who are already facing other inequalities - women and people of color.

Healthy solutions for self-care are to seek support from other caregivers or people you trust. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.

Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors and care teams. You are often the main source of valuable information. Prepare by writing down a list of questions/goals prior to your appointment.

Take breaks often and BEFORE you feel like you need them. Don’t wait until you’re at your wits end. Caregiving is hard work so prepare for the marathon, not the sprint.

Focus on reasonable expectations. Feelings of guilt/shame about not doing “enough” can get in the way.

Finally, give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!

If you are a caregiver, consider joining the National Alliance for Caregiving. They're a great resource for providing info for support groups, as well as helping with specific needs caregivers can't provide for their loved one.

To learn more, visit spectrumhealth.org.

Medical Moment is sponsored by Spectrum Health.