November is National Family Caregivers Month. CancerCare’s Caregiver Program Coordinator, Carly O'Brien, OSW-C, LCSW, shares her thoughts on why it’s important to have an awareness month dedicated to caregivers, and the importance of acknowledging the work that caregivers do.
Caregivers play an integral role in the care and support of patients and survivors, yet still go unrecognized by many. Each November, we are given an opportunity to acknowledge and thank the caregivers in our lives, as part of National Family Caregivers Month.
When faced with the many stresses and challenges of a serious illness like cancer, it can be easy to forget the value of a simple “how are you?” and the impact that it has on helping a caregiver to feel that their concerns and their voice matters.
Fortunately, we get to honor these brave and compassionate folks by asking those questions every day. Through the services we provide at CancerCare, cancer caregivers have a dedicated place where their concerns are heard and validated in a way that they may not be elsewhere, and I personally feel lucky to help offer that space and meet those needs.
The theme of this year’s awareness month, established by the Caregiver Action Network, is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” This theme is fitting, because between the practical and emotional aspects of this role, caregiving is certainly a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week job for most.
Beyond all of the practical and logistical work, and as emotionally exhausting as this role can sometimes be, finding meaning in the experience of supporting a loved one with cancer can help offer caregivers perspective, strength and relief. If you are a caregiver, I encourage you to allow yourself the time and space to take in what this role means to you. Taking breaks when you need them, finding time for yourself and reminding yourself that your needs are important, too, can help you make the most out of the experience.
For those who work with people with cancer or their caregivers, I hope this month, and in your work in general, you’ll continue to pay attention to the unique experience of caregivers and will work to be mindful and inclusive of their needs. While they don’t have cancer, they live with the disease and its impact every single day.
This article first appeared on CancerCare's website.