The Colors of Cancer - December 2014
01 Dec 2014 by Patty Tiscareño
Compassionate individual with ability to multi-task as a CEO, chef and nutritional counselor, housekeeper, medical advisor, personal assistant, driver, secretary and other duties as assigned. Shifts are 24 hours in duration with limited time off. Other required traits are patience, compassion and understanding with a twinge of stubbornness, decisiveness and ability to coordinate multiple lives and lifestyles. Paid salary is not a part of the remuneration; however, successful applicants will derive multiple benefits outside of financial gain.
Certainly, this employer would hardly expect anyone of sound mind to respond to the above advertisement. But in fact, 65 million people or 29% of the United State population are so employed.
We call these people caregivers.
Interestingly, in the Colors of Cancer calendar, there is no designated awareness ribbon for December. Maybe the feeling is that December is so crowded with holiday hubbub that cancer awareness gets assigned to the back seat.
So I am taking creative license this month to bring awareness to the issue of Caregiving, which is typically celebrated during November. What the heck! November… December… For the many of us who have worn this title, we can attest that caregiving is a year-round event.
The statistics tell the story. Approximately 66% of family caregivers are women. While women are typically the nurturers in the family, I do have male friends who are the caregivers in their families, too. Ted Escobedo, owner of Snappy Publishing and publisher of the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation's "In the Know: Understanding the Cancer Experience" shares the responsibilities for his aging father with his siblings. My dear friend, Beth Thomas is blessed to still have both her parents living in their own home. Both these caregivers log mileage on their vehicles over the Franklin Mountains for daily check-in, meal delivery and other compassionate care.
Of the 1.4 million children who care for an adult relative, 64% live in the same household as their care recipient.
I was blessed to have been in this category of caregivers. Both my mother and my father spent their last days under my roof. The ability to oversee their care in my own home appealed to my Type A, take charge personality. It also helped that my support network, my sisters Yolanda and Melinda, could have a 'home base' where they, too, could share in the duties like doctor visits and other chores.
70% of family caregivers manage medications for their loved ones.
My Sunday was reserved for allocating the heap of prescribed medications into the proper slots of the plastic pill repository. It helped very much to have a medications chart (download a free medications chart website) to enable precision. This is a monumental task for the caregiver; many pills are similar in size and color and an incorrect dose can be devastating.
Nearly three quarters (72%) of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves. Note to self: always put your oxygen mask on first, and then turn your attention to your traveling companion. If you can't breathe, you are not useful to your charge.
Of all the caregiving statistics mentioned, the one which I find the most precious is that over 75% of family caregivers say it was the act of helping their loved one with personal care that contributed to their self-identification and gratitude. I think Tia Walker, in her book "The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love" sums it up nicely.
"To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors".
During this beautiful Christmas season of caring and generosity, I send my wishes for blessings to the unknown, unnoticed caregiver heroes in our community who provide caring year-round. You are resilient and amazing. THANK YOU for a job well done.
Patty Tiscareño is the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation, the community's only local non-profit support cancer patients and their families. Call the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation (915) 562-7660 for more information or to make a donation in honor of your caregiver. We are the Colors of Cancer.