Guest Columns

Do Caregivers Really Need a Month of Their Own?

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By Curtis Au

November is National Family Caregivers Month. Who knew?

It’s not like the greeting card aisle is overrun with cards wishing that special someone in your life a Happy Caregivers Month. Most caregivers won’t get a dozen roses delivered to their doorstep. And don’t look for lawn signs announcing that “A Family Caregiver Lives Here.” I have yet to see one.

National Family Caregivers Month, I’m afraid, falls into that category of overlooked events that includes National Celery Month (March), National Accordion Awareness Month (June) and Spunky Old Broads Month (February). Events that come and go without landing on anyone’s radar.  

But why?

Based on sheer numbers alone – 53 million in the United States – family caregivers certainly warrant some sort of recognition. I can’t imagine there being anywhere near that many spunky old broads running around.  

More than one in five Americans are providing care, without pay, to a family member, friend or neighbor, according to a 2020 survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Many are looking after more than one person, like those who belong to what’s called the sandwich generation – caregivers caught in the middle of caring for their own children plus their elderly parents.

And more than 60 percent of caregivers, in addition to their caregiving responsibilities, also hold “real” jobs. Turns out caregivers have bills to pay, too.

Caregiving can take a toll on a person’s health, finances, relationships. Yet many caregivers find the role quite fulfilling. They see it as an expression of their love, a way to give back to someone who has meant so much to them. Caregiving gives their life meaning.

I think it might be even more fundamental than that. I think as human beings we recognize a responsibility to look after one another. If we have the capacity to love, then we have the capacity to care.

Most of the caregivers I know could care less about having a month in their honor. They’d be thrilled with just one uninterrupted hour to curl up with a good book, soak in a hot tub or go for a walk by themselves.

But if you’re so inclined this month to acknowledge any caregivers you might know, allow me, a caregiver, to give you some suggestions on meaningful ways to do that.

Don’t Ask…Do. Saying to a caregiver “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” may be well-intentioned, but he or she has enough to do without making a to-do list for you. Instead, offer something specific. Better yet, go ahead and just do it. Mow the lawn or rake the leaves. If you’re able to stay with the person being cared for for a few hours so that the caregiver can get a break, be the one to make that happen.

Listen. Most caregivers I know cherish any opportunity to converse with another human being who doesn’t judge, doesn’t claim to have all the answers and doesn’t monopolize the conversation. Someone who simply listens, patiently, with an open heart and an open mind. Can you be that person?

Be a friend. Stay connected. Caregiving can really put the brakes on a social life. You find yourself saying “Sorry, I can’t” an awful lot. And when you finally do go out, let’s face it, no one wants to hear you talk about adult diapers or the high cost of prescription meds. Soon, family and friends stop coming around altogether. This month, every month, be the kind of friend that doesn’t give up on friends who are caregivers.

Share something funny. Laughter is known to reduce stress, improve moods and make it easier to cope with difficult situations. Nobody needs laughter more than a caregiver.

Support healthy habits. Getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right, doing the healthy thing isn’t always easy for caregivers. While a box of Entenmann’s frosted chocolate donuts is always welcome in my home, if I’m bringing food to a caregiver, I’d probably opt for something a bit healthier. Likewise, if we’re getting together in person, I might suggest we do something physical, like go for a hike. Be a healthy influence whenever possible.

Avoid reminders about self-care. Caregivers I see in my therapy practice know all about the need for self-care. What they don’t know is how they’re supposed to find the time to care for themselves when they spend all their time caring for someone else. Hiring private caregivers can be expensive, and the pandemic has made finding good ones a real challenge. Is there something you could offer to help make a caregiver’s dream of self-care a reality?

So, to all the caregivers out there on this National Family Caregivers Month, you may not get your very own lawn sign, but know that you are all heroes. Thank you. Thank you so much for all you do.

Curtis Au, LCSW, a Pleasantville resident, has a private therapy practice in Westchester called Calm in a Storm, focusing on caregiver support, grief counseling and major life transitions. He can be reached at

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