Published on November 13, 2020
A Tribute to Those Who Never Stop Caring. Ever.
In 2014, through a Presidential Proclamation, Barack Obama designated November as National Family Caregivers Month (NFCM). He encouraged all Americans to pay tribute to those providing for the health and wellbeing of family members, friends, and neighbors:
“Each day, courageous individuals step forward to help care for family members in need… quiet acts of selflessness and sacrifice telling a story of love and devotion…Parents and children, siblings and spouses, friends and neighbors heroically give of themselves to support those in their lives affected by illness, injury, or disability….We salute the people who play difficult and exhausting roles, and we recommit to lifting up these Americans as they care for their loved ones while protecting their dignity and individuality.” - Barack Obama
He had it right. The devotion, sacrifices, and unwavering love that caregivers – and care partners – provide is a gift to cancer patients globally. In my travels, I have seen whole families in Zambia camp outside a rural village hospital, build a fire, and cook food every day to bring to their loved one in care. I have seen grown children in many countries bring their ailing parents into their busy homes and teach their young kids how to help grandma or grandpa with meal prep and distract them with the energy that only youth can delight with. I have seen my own children as they have grown up with a Dad who has gone through two clinical trials and the physical ups and downs that go along with treatment and rise to the occasion and support him – and me – in ways too many to count.
I have also seen the heartbreaking pain and anguish that so many caregivers/care partners go through when, no matter how hard they try, their loving care cannot take away the pain and sometimes finite outcomes of a patient journey. The suffering of a patient is shared by their loved ones in deeply emotional ways. Caregivers need caregivers!
This month, while we formally acknowledge the tremendous acts of selfless giving that people who look after the needs of the infirm take, I want to encourage a year-round measure of compassion and support for caregivers and care partners. This can be as simple as acknowledging regularly what they do with a “thank you,” giving an occasional break to a tired spouse, family member, friend, or hired help, sending something that will brighten up the day for both patient and caregiver… a personal card, a home cooked meal, even a kind word and a hug (post-pandemic) can go far!
I thank all of the caregivers and care partners out there who make the lives of those they love that much easier and give so much of themselves every day. I implore you to take as good care of yourself as you do of your loved ones.
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