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November is National Caregivers Month

Rosalyn Carter said it best: "There are only four kinds of people in the world - those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who need caregivers."

Caregivers are needed for family members of all ages. With appropriate support and information, family caregivers can help their loved ones through their disease process and hopefully shorten institutional care.

So, with that, who are family caregivers? This is a complicated question and hard to answer. America's family caregivers are family, friends, partners and neighbors. An excellent resource for caregivers is a group called National Family Caregivers Association.

Becoming a family caregiver for someone you love is one of those heart wrenching and at times, enlightening life lessons. Your role as family caregiver can happen abruptly or creep in slowly.

You will find yourself struggling with the day-to-day demands and suddenly realize you have lost your identity and have allowed your new role to define who you are.

This journey can be difficult when traveled alone; however, it doesn't have to be as hard as you may think and you should not have to travel this road alone.

Believe in yourself. Recognize your strengths and limitations. Set goals and boundaries.

Protect your health. Your good health is the strongest gift you can give to your loved one.

Reach out for help. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. It demonstrates strength and an awareness of your own abilities.

Gather as much information as you can about your loved one's condition. Be their advocate.

Caregiving can be difficult. Family caregiving requires constant juggling of work, family life and maintaining our own autonomy. Without adequate support, information, education and training, we cannot meet the needs of our entire family

Top 10 family caregiver tips:

• Caregiving is a job.

Reward yourself with respite breaks often.

• Watch out for signs of depression, don't delay getting professional help when you need it.

• When people offer to help, accept their offers. Suggest specific things they can do.

• Educate yourself and learn how to communicate with doctors.

• Be open to new technologies and ideas that promote your loved one's independence.

• Trust your instincts. Go with those "gut" feelings.

• Be good to your back. Learn proper lifting


• Grieve for your losses and then allow yourself to dream new dreams. If you have always planned to travel, take a "trip" in your house by watching a movie or planning a meal from the country that you had planned to visit.

• Seek support from other caregivers. There is strength in knowing you are not alone. Share ideas.

• Stand up for your rights. You deserve them.

• Join a support group. Our group in Douglas County meets the second Tuesday of each month

at First Lutheran Church in Alexandria from 2 to 4 p.m. You do not have to be a member of First Lutheran to join us.

Everyone is welcome. We learn so much from each other and support each other along this difficult journey. Call Mary at (320) 762-3047 for more information.