In this sweet and beautifully produced video, AARP thanks the 48 million dedicated family caregivers for their care and service.
The pictures and music are beautiful, of course. For sure they express the gratitude we feel for our family caregivers. And they may even capture some of the intrinsic rewards of caring for a spouse or a parent. Unfortunately, they don't come close to representing how hard it is to care for someone we love with a chronic condition, sometimes for years on end.
What do you think?
AARP has collected an impressive array of resources and materials for family caregivers. Like the video above, if it falls on you to care for a family member, as useful and well-intentioned as the list is, you may discover some pretty important omissions.
In this post, for example, Dr. Erwin Tan explains how social isolation, the lack of social, emotional and intellectual stimulation can put people we are caring for at risk for feelings of loneliness, depression and other, even more serious health problems. Doctor Tan writes, "These related conditions affect a significant proportion of adults in the United States and have been calculated as being the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day."
Dr. Tan itemizes some of the things concerned family members can do to care for a parent or spouse. Among those suggestions, he suggests making a schedule for regular phone calls or video conferences.
Great idea. Just don't forget to think about or even plan for what you're going to talk about! As beautiful as it is just to hear the voice of your loved one, if you don't prepare for the calls, and you expect to make them regularly, they are likely to become a kind of chore and they will fail to really establish an emotional or social connection.
Consider using Meema Stories to generate new and meaningful things to discuss. It's a great way to have some fun and also reinvigorate, renew, reinforce, or even deepen those personal connections with the people you're caring for.