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Celebrate Family Caregiver Month

National Family Caregiver Month is observed every November around the world to draw attention to the many challenges facing family caregivers, to advocate for public policy to address family caregiver issues, and to raise awareness about the community programs that support family caregivers.

The first presidential proclamation to promote the celebration of family caregivers began in 1997, and every year since then, a proclamation has been issued to express appreciation for caregivers. Day in and day out, more than 65 million family caregivers in the United States fulfill this vital role.

Today, family caregivers are supporting our entire health care system by providing more than 80 percent of all homecare services.

Over the past decade, the awareness gained by family caregivers and others has changed caregiving from a private family situation to a societal issue.

Today, policy makers, employers, insurers, and health care professionals are beginning to address the concerns of family caregivers. Family caregiving is an issue for all of us.

The National Family Caregivers Association (www.nfcacares.org) encourages caregivers to:

• Believe in Yourself — Try to maintain a positive attitude by recognizing your strengths and limitations.

• Protect Your Health — Try to maintain your physical and emotional health and well-being. Your good health is the greatest gift you can give your loved one and your entire family.

• Reach Out for Help — Reaching out and asking for help is never a sign of weakness, rather it demonstrates strength and a keen awareness of your own abilities and sense of self.

• Speak Up for Your Rights — Be knowledgeable of the issues surrounding your loved one’s diagnosis and treatment options. Advocate for your loved one and develop strong self-advocacy skills for not only your loved one, but for you as well.

We believe it is important for places of business to recognize that employees are often providing care for loved ones and may need assistance.

As a community member, you can take action by delivering dinner to a caregiving family once a week, offering to provide the caregiver a short break, or providing transportation.

The Family Caregiver Support Program at the Area Agency on Aging District 7 (AAA7) can offer advice and check on options that may be in your community depending on availability, eligibility and other factors.

As more and more individuals are being cared for at home by loved ones and friends, there is an even greater need to have as much caregiving support options and services available as possible.

We will continue to advocate for caregivers and advocate for the continuation and growth of support services and programs to best benefit their needs.

Pamela K. Matura is executive director of the Area Agency on Aging District 7. The non-profit agency serves senior citizens in Adams, Brown, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton counties. For more information, call our Agency at 1-800-582-7277.