Earlier this month, actor/caregiver Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) posted a video encouraging people to consider giving the gift of time this year to the caregivers in our lives. Sean’s hope is that with just a little extra time, caregivers can consider their own self-care this year.
That’s the idea behind a global initiative of EMD Serono called Time Counts.
For many Americans, the winter holidays are a welcome chance to visit family and friends and celebrate together. But for caregivers who provide assisted personal care to their sick or disabled parents, children, spouses, or other family members, the holidays often come with a different set of scheduling and communication challenges.
In a 2015 AARP study, it was reported that an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States had provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months. Caregivers spend an average of 24 hours per week providing unpaid family care, and 23% of caregivers invest over 40 hours of care each week. That’s the equivalent of a full-time job — and it’s not one that comes with vacation time, even during the holidays.
“While most people get to enjoy some much-needed time off during the holidays, caregivers tend to be the exception,” says Scott Williams, VP & Head of Global Patient Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships at EMD Serono. “Not only do many caregivers continue their regular caregiving schedules without a break during the holidays, but they often end up managing stressful disruptions. Complications like travel, winter weather, holiday hours at medical centers and pharmacies, and social visits from friends and family can all combine to cause a caregiver to feel even more time-strapped and stressed out than usual.”
To help manage the stress of caregiving during the holidays, caregivers from within the Embracing CarersTM network offer the following suggestions:
● Plan ahead. Find out whether any of the medical, transit, or support services that you and your cared-for person rely on will be disrupted by holiday hours. The earlier you can identify a potential scheduling challenge, the more time you have to find an alternative solution.
● Prepare for delays and disruptions. Crowded airports, highway traffic jams, and frigid snowstorms don’t take the needs of the people they affect into account. Think ahead to any ways that your loved one’s care could be negatively impacted if their routine was disrupted by a few hours—or a few days—and plan accordingly.
● Enlist extra help. The upside to everyone else having more free time during the holidays is that there may be more caregiving help available than usual. Reach out to friends and family to see who may be able to lend a hand by helping you with certain tasks, or spending time with your loved one while you run holiday errands.
● Clearly communicate your rules and expectations for visitors. Friends and family who drop in for a visit rarely understand all the nuances and complexities of caregiving. To avoid any miscommunication or presumptions, politely but clearly inform them of any “house rules” that affect the caregiving process. For example, if your loved one requires assisted medical care at specific times of day, you may want to inform all potential visitors that those times are strictly off-limits well before they stop by.
● Be comfortable saying “no.” Caregivers run a high risk of holiday burnout when they try to juggle too many responsibilities at once. If you know you’ll feel run-down by accepting one more holiday invitation, or by rearranging your loved one’s schedule to accommodate a visitor, it’s okay to defend your own wellbeing by saying “no.”
● Make time for self-care. The holidays are a time for togetherness, but every caregiver needs their own personal time to rest and recharge. Make sure you set aside some time for yourself each day to relax, reflect, and recharge, so you can be at your best for the people who rely on you each day.
For more information and resources for caregivers, including the Time Counts campaign from Embracing CarersTM that is helping to generate 1 million minutes of extra time for caregivers around the world, please visit https://www.embracingcarers.com/
Through its Embracing Carers program, EMD Serono will continue to share data and insights about the challenges of caregiving and offer solutions to help caregivers balance their needs at work, at home, and in service of their loved ones.
About Embracing Carers™: Embracing Carers™ is a global initiative founded by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, which operates its biopharmaceutical business in the U.S. as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials, in collaboration with leading caregiver organizations around the world, designed to increase awareness, discussion, and action about the often-overlooked needs of caregivers. Given that caregivers need support and often do not know where to turn for help, Embracing CarersTM was created to fill that void. www.embracingcarers.com
About EMD Serono: EMD Serono – the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in the U.S. and Canada – is engaged in the discovery, research and development of medicines for patients with difficult to treat diseases. The business is committed to transforming lives by developing and delivering meaningful solutions that help address the therapeutic and support needs of individual patients. Building on a proven legacy and deep expertise in neurology, fertility and endocrinology, EMD Serono is developing potential new oncology and immuno-oncology medicines while continuing to explore potential therapeutic options for diseases such as psoriasis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Today, the business has approximately 1,500 employees around the country with commercial, clinical and research operations based in the company’s home state of Massachusetts. www.emdserono.com