Thursday, 19 November 2015

National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month. This is the time where the people who care for their sick and ailing family members are recognised for their hard work, sacrifice and above all love. I was recently contacted by Heather Von St James, a brave and incredible woman who survived Mesothelioma. She documents her story over on her blog, which you can find here. She has asked me to discuss National Family Caregivers Month, to help shed some light on this wonderful cause.

Caregivers are all around us. They care for their parents, their children, their spouses, their siblings or their grandparents. They give up their own lives to make sure the people they love are cared for in the best possible way, so now is the best time to find a caregiver you know and let them know their effort is appreciated. Being a caregiver can be a thankless task, made harder by the fact that you spend your time watching someone you love suffer. Caregivers must put aside all of their own feelings and issues and put the needs of their loved ones first. This can be a challenge for most of us, but caregivers do it on a daily basis, without expecting a word of thanks from anyone.

A female lawyer I met through my work at the family law firm is currently caring for her husband who is suffering Mesothelioma, just like Heather Von St James did. (For anyone who doesn't know, Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The prognosis for anyone diagnosed with Mesothelioma can be grim.) This woman is now juggling being the sole provider for her family, caring for their small child, and caring for her husband as he undergoes the aggressive treatment necessary to treat Mesothelioma. (Treatments for Mesothelioma currently include surgery, either a pleuronectomy or a pneumonectomy, followed by months of chemotherapy, and then months of radiotherapy. These treatments make the sufferer very ill, but the alternative is much worse. For more information check out the Mesothelioma website)  On top of that she has to put up with the "helpful" advice from other family members who are not currently helping her with her increased work load. When her family first got the diagnosis my boss told us to let her vent to us whenever she needed it, as it was clear she wasn't going to get this opportunity elsewhere, so whenever she made one of her infrequent visits to our office, the office manager would take her off and listen to her, sometimes for up to an hour at a time. During this time she'd cry, she'd get angry, she'd laugh, and then she would leave, returning back to her life until the next time she needed a sympathetic ear. While our office manager could do nothing to actually lessen her work, she could still help her at a time when anyone would feel absolutely hopeless.

I always had the utmost respect for this woman, but more so when I saw how hard her life became once her husband was diagnosed. It never stopped her from getting up every single morning and doing everything she had to just to keep her family going. It didn't mean she never cried or got upset, she is still human, but she never let her sadness stop her from being a loving mother and wife, and an amazing lawyer. This is the kind of selfless work carers do every single day, and for that they need to be thanked.

So if you know someone who is caring for a family member, do something today to let them know their hard work is not only noticed, but appreciated. And if you are one of the more than 60 million caregivers in the United States alone, or one of the millions of caregivers from around the rest of the world, thank you.

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