Guest Feature: National Family Caregivers Month

Caregiving can seem like a career choice, but it can happen to anyone. It may start by helping your mom do her laundry or driving your dad to a medical appointment. Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter once said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

During her time as First Lady, Rosalyn Carter was the first public figure to champion the cause of caregivers. Fast forward to 2020, caregivers were estimated to be 53 million people, or 21% of the U.S. population.[1]

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and this annual observance is an important reminder that the need for caregiving assistance can occur across the lifespan for acute to chronic conditions. The theme for this year’s National Family Caregivers Month, set by Caregiver Action Network, is #CaregivingHappens. No matter what type of caregiver you are or who you are caring for, caregiving and needing to keep your loved one safe and healthy can happen at times when it is the least convenient. Being prepared and having the right resources makes navigating those difficult moments a little easier.

A particular challenge that falls into the category of “difficult moments” many caregivers face is having conversations about personal access to transportation. Approaching a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle that has been driving for over 50 years and is used to that kind of independence can be intimidating when you’re asking them to consider adjusting or changing their driving habits. ChORUS provides resources to support any level of caregiver in helping older road users maintain their safety and independence on the road.

If you’re a caregiver that is just approaching the topic of adjusting driving habits, there is the ChORUS Caregiver and Family Member Guide.  It includes important first steps like when is the right time to talk to someone about their road safety and how to start that conversation. There are a number of options on how to help your loved one stay safe on the roads. ChORUS can help you navigate these options and help you decide what best fits individual needs.

While caregivers have to help their loved ones stay safe on the road, they also have to help their loved ones stay safe in the home. Falls are a major cause of injury, particularly for older people. There are things you can do to lessen the risk of a loved one falling. Remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape or non-stick backing so the rugs won’t slip. Make sure that handrails are not loose and that there is a handrail on both sides of the stairs. Having a lamp or other light source near the bed and a nightlight can help if your loved one needs to use the bathroom at night. In the bathroom, install grab bars in the bathtub and by the toilet. You can also place non-skid strips on the bathtub or shower floor.

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, CAN’s Around the Clock Caregiving has tips to help with activities of daily living such as bathroom safety and safety in the kitchen. CAN also has a video series for Alzheimer’s caregivers

As a caregiver, you want your loved one to keep as much of their independence as possible while also staying safe. Getting them to change things like their driving habits won’t be easy, but you can be better prepared with support from CAN and ChORUS resources. And keeping your loved one safe will be worth it.