By Menachem Rephun, Creative Spirit Communications Manager and Self Advocate
In honor of National Family Caregivers Month (NFCM), Creative Spirit is raising awareness of the issues surrounding allyship and supporting those who care for friends, family members, neighbors, and loved ones with disabilities. The campaign is run by Caregiver Action Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting caregivers across the United States. For National Family Caregivers Month, CAN makes materials – including media kits, posters, sample proclamations, and that year’s theme – available for general use. Census.gov explains that CAN’s promotion of national family caregivers began in 1994, culminating in President Bill Clinton signed the first NFC Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997. Since then, officially acknowledging NFCM has become a presidential tradition, with every president issuing a proclamation in November.
As a nonprofit focused on disability awareness, Creative Spirit recognizes the impact that allies have on the lives of people with disabilities. According to Mental Health America, over 53 million Americans volunteer their time and energy as unpaid caregivers to support friends, neighbors, and family members with disabilities. These care providers are the unsung heroes of today, and they deserve our respect and recognition. While the importance of caregiving cannot be overstated, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can also be incredibly demanding, impacting sleep, physical health, and the caregivers’ work and social life. NationalToday.com notes that nearly 70% of caregivers report not being able to visit their doctor regularly due to their caregiving obligations. Creative Spirit’s mission to ensure fair-wage employment for people with disabilities includes acknowledging and appreciating the compassion, hard work, and dedication of these extraordinary people, who work tirelessly and sometimes round-the-clock on behalf of people with disabilities to ensure they have access to the support and services they need.
Perhaps most importantly, National Family Caregivers Month serves as a reminder that disability is something that will likely touch all of our lives at some point in one form or another. This makes extending support and having others extend that support to us, all the more important. Protecting allies is critical not only for their own welfare but for the individuals with disabilities they care for. One way to ensure this is through coordinated support services, which, as the Administration for Community Living (ACL) points out, have been proven to “reduce caregiver depression, anxiety, and stress, and enable them to provide care longer, which avoids or delays the need for costly institutional care.” The theme of this year’s NFCM is #CaregiverAnd, which encourages supporters to focus on their identities outside of their caregiving role and to take time to celebrate their own passions and interests. In the words of CaregiverAction.org, “Being a family caregiver is incredibly important, but it is critical not to lose sight of who you are. Your sense of self makes your life complete. This is an essential component of self-care that can ultimately prevent caregiver burnout and depression.”
NFCM can be observed in a variety of ways, whether through attending a caregiving conference or workshop; promoting caregiver mental health by attending a town hall meeting or contacting your senator; or downloading a caregiving toolkit that helps you take time to decompress and restore your energy. For those that need it most, local caregivers associations provide training on how to de-stress as well as support and awareness within the community. As Awareness Days.com explains, “We must never underestimate the strength that caregivers have for providing this support to those people who need it the most, nor the toll that it can take both emotionally and physically upon them.” The commitment and hard work of caregivers is something Creative Spirit appreciates not only during NFCM, but all year round. Visit https://www.creativespirit-us.org/ to learn more about our history, services, and mission, and how we’re striving to change society for the better and truly make a difference in the lives of millions of people with disabilities.